Washington City Council Chambers

The extension of the one-half cent capital improvement sales tax in Washington will appear on the April ballot.

The city council made it official Monday with an ordinance seeking an eight-year extension of the tax to fund capital improvement projects. It was approved 8-0.

Washington’s capital improvement sales tax committee submitted a letter to the council formally requesting that the measure be put to voters in the April 3 municipal election.

The committee has heard proposals from several departments seeking funding through the sales tax for projects.

City Administrator Darren Lamb said the staff has pared down the proposed projects, but there still are more decisions to be made.

“We have a lot more projects than revenue,” he said. “The goal of the committee is to make certain you see the need to put it on the ballot.”

The sales tax committee was slated to meet Tuesday to hear revised cost estimates and hear feedback from the community.

“We made drastic cuts but they will look to prioritize projects,” Lamb said, adding that the city staff will determine the lion’s share of the cuts.

Councilwoman Susan Watermann asked how much public input the city has received.

According to Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci there were 212 comments submitted through an online survey that were compiled Monday. There were 108 mailed or dropped off at city hall.

“That is significantly more than eight years ago,” he said. “We will continue to accept them.”

Lamb noted that the comment period will continue into next month.

“I encourage people to do it online,” he added. “That is the easiest.”

Lamb noted there were about 30 public comments when the tax was renewed in 2009.

“We have far more community input than last time,” added Mayor Sandy Lucy.

When asked, Lamb said the council will weigh in on the final projects proposed through the tax revenue.

The tax expires in 2018. If voters agree to extend the tax for another eight years, it could generate between $12.6 million and $15.1 million to spend on capital projects.

Last week, the parks and recreation department presented 12 projects to the sales tax committee meeting. The projects combined would cost the city $13,490,000.

The number more than doubles the price tag of the 24 previously proposed projects from other city departments. The total cost of projects presented now stands at $26,075,200.

The committee will continue to meet Tuesdays at 1 p.m. in the council chamber.

Projects Completed

Earlier this year Lucy said everything that has been presented to voters as projects to be funded with the sales tax have been completed.

In the past, the city has sought low-interest bonds to fund construction of the projects. However, this time around, the sales tax committee members have indicated that it would be more cost-effective to pay for projects as revenue comes in.

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.

Sales Taxes

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 was a one-half cent sales tax passed by voters in April 2005 for transportation purposes. The tax will sunset in 2030.