We say no to proposed boost to square footage tax | Opinion

  • Thursday, November 16, 2017 11:53am
  • Opinion

The Kent Chamber of Commerce is opposed to the mayor’s proposal to increase the square footage tax.

We don’t need to revisit the history of the B&O tax to know why this proposal is bad for business and bad for Kent. However, it is important to admit that an increase in the square footage tax is essentially an increase in the B&O tax. The city is asking the businesses to contribute more for city operations; in this case, it appears much of the use of the additional revenue would go to parks for deferred maintenance expenses.

The city was advised by the Financial Sustainability Task Force that parks were not among the top priorities for financial sustainability. While the city is facing a fiscal cliff due to the termination of temporary funding sources from the state to assist the city in dealing with the loss of warehouse-based sales taxes and costs related to the annexation of the Panther Lake area, now is not the time to raise taxes for a lower priority expense. While parks are an important asset of the city, they are not a priority for funding at this time.

The Chamber was a reluctant partner with the city when the B&O tax was proposed as a way to repair the emergency facing the city from 10 years of underfunded arterial repair that was allegedly caused by commercial trucks. The funds anticipated from that tax are exceeding expectations along with the need for the funds to continue maintenance on our streets, but that isn’t stopping the mayor from asking for an increase in those same taxes now to help the city pay for a backlog in parks maintenance.

The businesses in Kent cannot be blamed for the backlog in parks maintenance like they were for the backlog in arterial maintenance. Trucks don’t use city parks. Residents and visitors use city parks. While some of those people are employees and employers of Kent businesses, parks maintenance is not directly related to businesses, like the use of the roads can be described. Instead, the funding for parks maintenance needs to be broader, spread among the general taxpaying public within the city.

The best source of revenue for parks funding is property tax (which businesses pay also) and/or a levy and specific taxing district. The Chamber will support a reasonable park levy and/or taxing district for parks. We ask you to do the same.

Please do not ask the Kent business community to do more than its share. We are already contributing more than you originally thought would be needed. Members are talking about relocating to neighboring communities where taxes are lower for them. All business owners may not be voting residents of the city, but they can choose where to operate, and relocation will impact the workforce and tax base of Kent. We want them to choose Kent.

Our city is economically strong because of the success of the business community.

Please keep it that way.

Andrea Keikkala is CEO of the Kent Chamber of Commerce.

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