New taxes? For Camas, no worries

OK, I know it’s hard to find much to complain about life in Camas and Washougal. The streets are clean, the trees are green and our citizens are as polite and friendly as they come.

But why, oh why, are we, in Camas and Washougal always so completely and unconditionally satisfied with the way our city governments, our school districts and port district spend our tax dollars? Why don’t most of us ever show up at city council, school board or port meetings to express an occasional disagreement with an issue at hand, or ever run for a seat on these boards and commissions?

Or at the very least, when local governments such as the Camas City Council are discussing new taxes to pay for road maintenance, why don’t citizens at least question those proposals?

In other words, when do we quit being so dang polite and speak our minds?

Such was the community response, or complete lack thereof, to the report last week in the Post-Record of the Camas City Council’s ongoing discussion of long term funding options — in other words new taxes — to pay for road maintenance within the city limits.

The council apparently feels that a new funding source for maintaining roads, to the tune of $600,000 per year, needs to be explored. One of the main options being considered is a transportation benefit district — TBD — that could levy new taxes to pay for road maintenance.

As reported in last week’s article, the TBD could implement, without voter approval, a $20 annual vehicle license fee. With voter approval the TBD could include property tax levies, a one year levy for specific road projects, a .2 percent use and sales tax, or an annual vehicle license fee higher than $20, but less than $100.

To be fair, these new tax discussions are only in the talking stages at city hall. The council will likely discuss these options again in November budget meetings and at a January planning conference. The public will have several opportunities to comment on these new tax proposals.

But the question begs asking. Why are new taxes even a talking point in this struggling economy? With the highest unemployment rate in decades, who can afford new property taxes, or a new car tab fee? What business can easily absorb even a .2 percent sales tax increase?

Instead of a new taxing district and new taxes for road maintenance, shouldn’t the city look first at cutbacks and tightened belts, the way we do in our businesses and homes? If $600,000 is needed, shouldn’t staffing cuts, salary freezes and even revisiting union contracts when they come up again, be on the table?

Hopefully the city council will find another option without new taxes to pay for roads, or better yet find a backbone and carve out enough in the city’s general fund for the needed $600,000.

As for finding backbones, we the taxpaying public in Camas need to find ours as well. If we don’t want a new taxing district we need call, write, e-mail or come to a city council meeting very soon and tell our elected officials in a firm tone, how we feel.

In other words speak now, or forever hold our peace.

Mike Gallagher can be reached by e-mail at mike.gallagher@camaspostrecord.com.

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