Sales tax bump heads to North Bend voters this fall

“If North Bend doesn’t reinvest in its own community, then other people aren’t going to want to invest in our community, either.”

With those words, Councilmember Chris Garcia recommended that the North Bend City Council act to place a sales tax increase on the November ballot. They did so unanimously Tuesday, Aug. 2.

If voters approve the 0.2 percent tax increase in November, sales tax in North Bend will change from 8.6 percent to 8.8 percent, resulting in a potential $400,000 more revenue to the city annually.  The revenue will be designated for pedestrian and street improvements in the city.

“This is not going to be dumped into the general fund,” City Administrator Duncan Wilson said, a day after the vote.

Wilson estimated the effect of the increase to be $10 in additional tax for every $5,000 worth of taxable goods sold in the city. Since food and gasoline are not subject to sales tax, Garcia thought “You’d almost be hard-pressed to spend that much money in North Bend...”

North Bend’s new Transportation Benefit District, governed by a board of current city councilmembers, will collect and distribute the tax.

Speaking as individuals, councilmembers were in favor of the tax. They felt that voters would support it in November, because visitors to North Bend would also pay the tax, helping to fund the roads, too.

Garcia noted that the Transportation Benefit District Board did not take the tax lightly, but felt “it’s necessary, to help North Bend along in its transportation, deficiencies, I guess is a good word.... it’s hard to find money to get these projects done.” At a previous meeting, Public Works Director Ron Garrow told the council that the city was significantly behind in its asphalt overlay program, illustrating with photos of some of the worst roads in the city. He also said grant funds were shrinking and competition for those funds was increasing.

Councilmember Dee Williamson said “I think it’s self-evident that we need to have this done.”

Wilson originally presented the sales tax proposal to the council months ago, and at their direction, he asked people in the business community for their reactions to the tax.

“In talking to the Chamber of Commerce, there was nobody that voiced any objections, and several people said they thought it was a good plan,” Wilson said. He got a similar response from the manager of the North Bend Premium Outlets mall.

“Given the significant numbers of visitors we have who come to town and spend their money here on taxable items... they use our streets, and we felt it was appropriate that those that are using our streets on a regular basis would help contribute to the ongoing maintenance and repair of those streets,” Wilson said.

Several councilmembers also noted that the city could have passed a $20 car-tab increase for the same purpose, but wanted voters to have their say on the issue.

In bringing the issue to voters in November, the TBD Board also had to appoint citizens to write statements for and against the tax. The statements will be published in the King County Voters’ Guide, along with any rebuttals from other citizens.

North Bend residents Sherwood Korssjoen and Fritz Ribary volunteered and were appointed to write the statement in favor of the tax. Mark Dilger, who does not live within city limits, volunteered and was appointed to write the statement against.

Voters living in the city limits will decide on the tax by the November 8 general election. North Bend voters living outside the city limits can’t vote on this issue.

If the tax is approved, the Department of Revenue would start collecting it in April, and the city could see revenue from it by July 1, 2012.

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