Discussion on forming a possible transportation district got stuck in a philosophical cul-de-sac at Tuesday night’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting.
It’s expected, however, that the wheels will hit the road for a unified council decision in the near future.
Council members learned this week that a $20 license tab fee on approximately 60,000 licensed vehicles in Spokane Valley would generate about $1.2 million for road maintenance within the city. That number would increase by $60,000 per every $10 added to the fee.
The information was culled when city staff members were asked by council members last month to come up with data on what would be raised if the city were to form its own TBD, a Washington state-legislative-approved method of raising tax dollars for road projects.
While cities have the option of going it alone, Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke has been leading the charge to feel out local jurisdictions to attempt a regional approach, where 70 percent of the revenue raised in each city would go toward local roadwork while 30 percent would be directed to regional projects such as the North Spokane Corridor or Bridging the Valley.
Mielke – who gave a brief update to the council after giving a more complete report last month – said that same $20 fee would generate the same amount of cash for local projects and additional money for regional projects, since other areas would be contributing, if the city agreed to join a countywide TBD.
“You get a slightly better return on the regional piece,” he said.
It’s unlikely, though, that a $20 fee will be enough to do the amount of work that is expected to maintain Spokane Valley’s roads. Earlier in the evening, Neil Kersten, Spokane Valley public works director, said the city needs another $4.2 million in additional funding for regular street upkeep.
Spokane County is proposing a $45 tab fee on a regional approach, which would net Spokane Valley $2.7 million for local projects. The matter would go before a public vote under that approach.
Council Member Brenda Grassel said that the high demand for local work and vague language in a draft interlocal agreement for a TBD discourage her from wanting to join a regional approach.
“The language is too broad,” she said, adding that she did not believe her constituents would support a tax that could go toward projects like light rail or a bicycle trail system. “This needs to go for roads and roads alone.”
Mielke said that amenities such as sidewalks and bike lanes are standard for new road projects, and would be beneficial in areas such as South Harvard Road where new development continues to grow.
Council Member Bob McCaslin said he feared the city would give up to much control, as the Spokane Regional Transportation Council would likely be the governing body for assigning project priorities.
“I appreciate all your work,” McCaslin told Mielke, “but I prefer to have control.”
Mielke reiterated that the 70 percent each jurisdiction raised would be for their own projects, and only 30 percent would go to regional road improvements. Oftentimes, those projects – like Bridging the Valley – would be within Spokane Valley’s borders.
Joe Tortorelli, secretary of the Spokane Area Good Roads Association, said that an independent survey revealed that 72 percent questioned preferred a regional approach to solving and paying for road-improvement projects.
That information “flabbergasted” Council Member Bill Gothmann.
“I would have thought they would have said to go local,” he said. “That’s a huge plus.”
Council members said they would discuss the issue further and report back to county commissioners in September.