Ballot measure would raise money for Anacortes road repairs

Roads in Anacortes, such as this one as seen in March 2014, are in need of repairs.

Anacortes voters will decide in November whether to approve a sales tax increase to generate nearly $1 million a year for city road repairs.

The ballot measure would raise the city’s combined sales tax rate from 8.5 to 8.7 percent starting April 1. Shoppers would pay an extra 20 cents per $100 spent on taxable items.

If the increase is approved, the city intends to repeal a $20 car tab fee that currently brings in $335,000 a year to maintain streets. The two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax bump would bring in three times as much — about $928,000 a year for 10 years — based on 2016 taxable sales, according to a city fact sheet on the ballot measure.

The sales tax revenue, along with other tax sources, would allow the city to spend $1.7 million a year on road repairs, officials have said.

About 57 percent of city roads are currently listed in good condition, but as pavement declines, repair costs will mount, city staff told the Anacortes City Council in May. Additional money for repairs would allow the city to avoid more costly maintenance in the future, staff said.

Higher-volume roads such as D Avenue would be the priority, followed by residential streets.

The city’s fact sheet states that money will be used for “maintenance, operation, labor, material and equipment for street projects and programs, and includes the preservation, maintenance, operation and/or improvement of existing transportation infrastructure in the city.”

The Anacortes City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the measure in October.

Councilwoman Liz Lovelett said Oct. 1 that swapping the $20 car tab fee with the tax increase would save Anacortes families money. Families currently pay $20 a year to the city for each vehicle they own, compared to the $10,000 they would need to spend in town to hit $20 in sales tax contributions, she said.

“This also shifts the burden so it’s not just the people in Anacortes paying for it, but the people who come to town and are using our roads,” Lovelett said.

Resident Ward Mackenzie spoke in support of the measure.

“I’m not normally a proponent of tax increases, but I think the compelling argument is the benefit cost-analysis and that the end result is actually cost savings for the taxpayers,” he said.

The council invited those in opposition to comment, but no one came forward.

Councilman Ryan Walters said if the measure if passed, Anacortes’ sales tax would still be lower or at least comparable to some cities in the region.

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