Garbage taxes will go up next year in Kent to help pay for residential street repairs.
The Kent City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday night to raise the solid waste tax rate to 18.3 percent from 7.8 percent on each bill. The increase will bring in about $3 million per year for street maintenance in neighborhoods.
Single-family residents who pay $18.37 per month for garbage, recycling and yard waste service plus taxes, will see a new rate of $20.75 per month for a customer who has a 32-gallon weekly garbage pickup and up to a 96-gallon recycling and 96-gallon yard waste containers pickup every other week.
“We don’t have funding to repair these roads in residential areas,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said prior to the vote. “I see a direct connection between the garbage utility tax and repairing these streets. I think it’s important for many different reasons not the least of which is maintaining the property value for homeowners.
“As people are buying and selling property the condition of the neighborhood is certainly a factor in the value of the property. And a road that is falling apart and has chunks and potholes coming out of it is going to affect that property value. This council can’t continue to defer that maintenance.”
Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger cast the only vote against the tax.
“What concerns me is this council is wrestling with a variety of different revenue shortfalls and options and funding streams,” she said. “What I am hearing from folks in the community is a lot of negativity around being hit from all sides in terms of increases. This is not the only increase being proposed and we are still wrestling with the budget. I feel this is not the right time to be passing this when we have not made decisions about everything else yet.”
Kent has about 26,000 garbage customers served by Republic Services. About 24,000 of those are residential customers. City officials rationalize the tax increase because of the damage garbage and recycling trucks cause to roads. The council asked city staff to come up with proposals about ways to raise more money for street repairs.
At least 19 neighborhoods have cracked roads that need to be repaired, Public Works Director Tim LaPorte said. He added most of the roads are close to 30 years old and residential streets last an average of about 25 years. He said the cost to repair streets in all 19 neighborhoods is about $35 million.
“It would take us 11 years to address these neighborhoods,” LaPorte said about the utility tax that will bring in $3 million per year. “We would never catch up but we certainly can make a dent in fixing these streets.”
Kelly Peterson, Public Works special projects manager, emphasized Kent has the lowest rates in the area and even with the increase only Tukwila will have a lower rate.
Other cities and their monthly rates for a typical customer similar to Kent include Tukwila ($19.13), Renton ($21.12), Maple Valley ($24.26), Covington ($24.84), Burien ($26.04), Des Moines ($26.53), Auburn ($27.49), Federal Way ($30.34) and unincorporated King County ($41.99).