A committee is forming to explore the capital improvement needs in Washington in advance of proposing an extension of a city sales tax.
Mayor Sandy Lucy said the committee will determine projects to be presented to the community in seeking support of a renewal of the city’s half-cent capital improvement sales tax that will expire next year.
The city council will determine if the city will seek renewal of the one-half cent sales tax that has been collected for 28 years for capital improvements. If approved by the council, it is likely that the question will be posed to voters in April 2018.
Washington residents originally authorized this tax in 1989 for five years. It was reauthorized for a second period of eight years starting in 1994, a third period of eight years starting in 2002 and a fourth period starting in 2010. The tax sunsets in August 2018.
The sales tax generated $2,177,255.93 from Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017. The 2017-2018 budgeted amount is $2,250,000.
According to Lucy, the committee will be comprised of a broad spectrum of community-minded members.
“We are trying to get a variety of people from different walks of life,” she said.
It will be those members who prioritize requests from department heads, suggestions from staff and members of the community to determine what projects the city will seek to fund through the tax.
“The committee and city staff determine what the sales tax will fund,” Lucy said. “The citizens on the committee pay attention to what will get voters out and what they will support.”
City Administrator Darren Lamb added the committee will meet in the next few weeks to begin the process of developing the list of projects, and seeking input on how to educate the public on those improvements.
During the first meeting, Lamb explained, the group will discuss projects over the last 7 1/2 years and talk about estimated revenues for the next eight years.
“We will get into preliminary discussions we have heard from the general public and others,” he said. “Some ideas may evolve over the next several months.”
According to Lucy, everything that has been presented to voters as projects to be funded with the sales tax have been completed.
“If you go back the 20 years it has been going on, we have done everything,” she said. “None of the money will get into the coffers — we really hold our feet to the fire that what the money is passed for is what it is used for.”
Lucy added it is unlikely that the committee will look to pursue the tax for longer than eight years.
In the past, the city has sought low-interest bonds to fund construction of the projects.
Improvements that have been made through capital improvement tax funds include the public safety building north of city hall, which houses the police department and emergency communications, new fire stations, expansion of the parks system, and development of major industrial parks, among other things.
In addition to the capital improvement tax, the city collects two other sales taxes, including a 1-cent tax which is collected for use in the general fund. The 1-cent tax has been in effect since 1970.
There also is a one-half cent sales tax passed by voters in April 2005 for transportation purposes. The tax will sunset in 2030.