Washougal vehicle tab fee is discussed

Revenue would pay for road improvements

Washougal residents could see a $20 increase in their vehicle tab renewal fees, to pay for road maintenance and repairs.

The idea was discussed during the Washougal City Council’s annual planning session Saturday, at the Washougal Community Center.

Current pavement management funding includes $150,000 in real estate excise taxes and one-time contributions of $62,000 in the 2014 budget.

Washougal Public Works Director Trevor Evers said additional dollars will pay for more slurry and chip seals, as well as overlays, to maintain good road conditions.

The adoption of a $20 per vehicle fee would involve the formation of a Transportation Benefit District.

As of November 2013, there were 10,731 vehicles registered within the city. The revenue projection would be $214,620.

The total funding to the Pavement Management Program would be $365,000, which would include $150,000 from real estate excise taxes.

Councilman Brent Boger said he could support the tab fee, but he would want Washougal residents to issue an advisory vote on the issue after there is community discussion.

Mayor Sean Guard advised against having an advisory vote.

“There should be community outreach and town halls,” he said. “I believe this is a very responsible tax.

“What happens if they say ‘no’? Guard asked. “I think this is sellable to the community as something that is reasonable and responsible.”

City Administrator David Scott said additional council discussions could be part of the 2015 budget process and talks regarding the structural deficit.

Financial deficit is discussed

The long term financial status of the city’s general fund was brought up during the planning session.

The city’s revenue in 2015 is estimated to be $10.9 million, and expenditure is listed at $11.5 million, resulting in a deficit of $569,730.

The projected deficit in 2016 is $757,647. In 2017, the deficit is listed at $957,884.

“We are primarily a service organization,” Scott said. “We could eliminate parts or all of programs. We could reduce the levels of service.”

Councilman Brent Boger suggested the formation of a council budget sub-committee.

“There could be more in-depth discussions regarding how to deal with the problem,” he said.

Freeman said those discussions should occur instead during City Council workshops.

Guard said later the deficit is about programs and people.

“It will have an impact on our workforce,” he said. “There will be an impact, and it’s not positive.”

During public comments, Terry Babin said he was disappointed that the council had not made substantive progress on the issue of the budget shortfall during the past year.

He thinks it is very unlikely that the council can find more than 15 percent of the amount needed to cover the total shortfall and prevent further cuts.

“The Council needs to step up to the fact that it must address the revenue part of the problem if it is to realistically solve the budget deficit,” Babin said. “The Council needs to use the revenue generating authority it already has — such as establishing a Transportation Benefit District — and decide what other revenue strategies are needed to cover the shortfall.

“I voted for all of you,” he added. “The time is now to make tough choices.”

Babin was a member of the Washougal Strategic Planning Advisory Committee in 2012.