Kent City Council to meet Tuesday to consider new taxes for streets, parks

The Kent City Council will have a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31 at City Hall, 220 Fourth Ave. S., to consider a proposed funding package for streets and parks, including whether to refer a property tax measure to voters on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The Kent City Council is considering asking voters to approve a property tax levy to pay for repairs to streets and parks.

The Kent City Council is considering asking voters to approve a property tax levy to pay for repairs to streets and parks.

The Kent City Council will have a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31 at City Hall, 220 Fourth Ave. S., to consider a proposed funding package for streets and parks, including whether to refer a property tax measure to voters on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The council must submit the measure to King County Elections by Aug. 7 to get on the November ballot.

Four items are on the agenda for Tuesday:

Discussion on funding for parks, streets

Resolution calling on city administration to conduct a third party efficiency study

• Discussion and possible action on business tax resolution or ordinance

• Discussion and possible action on placing levy lid lift on November ballot

After meeting last week with city officials, the Kent Chamber of Commerce came out Monday in support of a proposed property tax levy to pay for street and park repairs if the council does not tie in an additional business tax as part of a funding package.

Instead of a business tax, the chamber wants the council to adopt a $20 per year car tab fee on Kent residents.

The council formed citizen committees earlier this year to come up with recommendations for parks and street funding and to help prioritize projects. Those recommendations went to an ad-hoc committee of council members Dennis Higgins, Dana Ralph and Elizabeth Albertson.

That three-member committee recommended to the full council a six-year property tax levy lid lift of 37 cents per $1,000 assessed property value or about $111 per year on a $300,000 home.

The levy would raise about $29 million over six years, $18.3 million for parks and $10.7 million for streets as 23 cents per $1,000 would go to parks each year and 14 cents per $1,000 to streets. The levy would expire after six years. The ballot measure would describe the park and street projects to be paid for and require a simple majority.

Higgins told the Kent Reporter earlier this month that a property tax levy alone would not cover the long-term street maintenance needs.

The committee also recommended that a new business tax be implemented to raise as much as $4 million to $6 million per year; and that city administrators find $2 million per year in efficiencies in the city budget to go toward street maintenance.

The options for a business tax could be a per employee tax similar to what the city of Renton does; a business and occupation tax or a business license fee.

Andrea Keikkala, executive director of the chamber, issued a media release Monday about the chamber’s position on the proposed taxes.

Keikkala said councilmembers Albertson, Bill Boyce, Higgins and Mayor Suzette Cooke met July 24 with chamber officers and representatives from Boeing, REI, Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, Continental Mills, Veolia Transportation, Cascade Gasket & Manufacturing, Bowen Scarff Ford Lincoln Mercury, Sysco Food Services and WCP Solutions to discuss street maintenance funding proposals and alternatives.

The attending businesses agreed to the following proposal, which also has been passed with the unanimous support of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors:

“The city should not delay, or tie additional business taxes to, the proposed levy lid lift campaign. The decision on the levy is time critical to get on the November ballot, while the ability to apply a tax on businesses is councilmatic and can be voted on by the council at any time. A delay in voting on the levy hurts the funding for critical infrastructure projects.

We understand that the proposed levy of $.37/$1,000 of assessed valuation will be allocated .23 cents per $1,000 to parks and the remainder to streets. Businesses would pay approximately 40 percent of the property tax money collected.

The chamber supports the proposed levy on its own, but not if it is tied to additional business taxes.

The city should pass a $20 car tab fee. This will raise approximately $1.4 million annually for street maintenance and will allow time to determine if a business tax is needed or how best to be implemented.

The city should work towards finding $2 million in efficiencies in the budget or have the budget audited for such efficiencies. An independent audit will be educational and one of the biggest assets for a campaign to the business community to raise revenue in the future.

Maintenance on streets and money collected should be phased in. Since the city has been operating at approximately $1 million per year in street maintenance, we believe the projects should be phased in with smaller amounts initially that will match the new revenue sources and increase as new revenue sources are identified including retaining more of the state gas tax funds and other funding mechanisms that the state Legislature may identify in coming sessions.

The city and business community should lobby at the state and federal levels to capture our appropriate share of state gas taxes, large truck license fees and internet sales taxes.

We understand and are willing participants in continued dialog regarding the need for additional street maintenance and it’s funding. The chamber will work with business and community members to determine the most acceptable solutions.”

 


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