Moses Lake voters to decide on sales tax increase

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MOSES LAKE — Street repair has been a hot-button topic in Moses Lake for years. On Nov. 7 city residents will be deciding if they want to institute a .20 percent sales tax increase to help fund street maintenance projects in the city.

A few months ago the Moses Lake council passed an ordinance to create a Transportation Benefit District, which has the authority to impose a .20 percent sales tax and needs a simple majority via referendum vote to be passed, and impose an additional vehicle licensing fee. All funds generated through the two options are required to be directed to street maintenance projects.

The board decided to impose a $20 tab fee in February, which the city began collecting this month. The city projects the fee will raise about $333,600 annually. The decision was also made to place the sales tax increase proposition on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

The sales tax increase is projected to raise about $1.4 annually and if passed by voters will end in 10 years. It has already been agreed that if the proposition is passed, the $20 tab fee will be discontinued and no longer be collected. The city currently has a $13.4 million backlog of street projects that require funding, ranging from full-blown street overhauls to chip seal projects.

“Our market service area is bigger than just the citizens of Moses Lake. You know the surrounding county, et cetera. So depending on whose numbers you believe as far as who you serve, it could be as high as 100,000. We usually refer to it as we have about a 60,000 direct market service area, between county and other cities,” City Manager John Williams told the Columbia Basin Herald. “We provide the amenities. Whether it be shopping, hospitals, et cetera. People come to or through Moses Lake all the time, tourism included.”

Williams said part of the rationale behind the sales tax increase is that the bill is footed evenly and not solely by the citizens, as it is with the car tab fee. With a sales tax, all who use city streets, whether they are a city resident or not, are providing “some revenue back to maintain them.” Williams said a common misconception is that the city currently has money for street repairs.

“There is no money for street repairs. There has been grants and et cetera out there, but they can only be used for new construction," Williams explained. "But even in order for the street to read out you either have to have a high instance of accidents, a lot of pedestrian traffic, (or be) near a school. All those things are the points that help you get into position and obviously not every street does that, especially neighborhood streets. And that’s the one thing with this money is we would be able to use it on any street in need of repair maintenance.”

Richard Byrd can be reached via email at city@columbiabasinherald.com.

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