Washougal talks revenue sources

Council doubles business license fee starting in 2019

Washougal companies will pay twice as much for an annual business license, starting in 2019, as the city seeks additional revenue.

The Washougal City Council approved the increase from $25 to $50 during its Monday, Oct. 8, meeting. The change will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Washougal Finance Director Jennifer Forsberg said before the council voted 7-0 to approve the increase that the estimated $37,000 in new revenue will go to the city’s general fund for any city purpose. The money could be used to match potential grants and/or expenses for city facilities, parks, streets and sidewalks.

City Councilwoman Alex Yost, co-owner of OurBar in downtown Washougal, encouraged the city to make sure there is outreach to the business community to explain when and why the increase is happening.

Forsberg said during the Sept. 24 and Oct. 8 City Council workshops that the Washougal city business fee had not been increased in more than a decade, and the median annual business license fee for cities of comparable population to Washougal, including Enumclaw, Lynden, Centralia, Monroe and Arlington, is $50.

The annual business license fee in Vancouver is $125, while in Battle Ground it is $65, and $50 in Ridgefield, La Center and Yacolt. Camas does not have a business license fee.

While the Washougal council approved the annual business license fee increase, they are considering a proposed hike in the natural gas utility tax from 4 percent to 6 percent. The increase would generate an estimated $55,000 for potential grant matches and/or expenses for city facilities, parks, streets and sidewalks.

Vancouver, La Center, Battle Ground and Ridgefield have a six percent natural gas utility tax, while in Camas it is three percent for residential customers only.

A proposed, new 6-percent cable utility tax in Washougal would result in projected revenue of $237,000, to be used for short-term debt for capital projects and/or expenses for city facilities, parks, streets and sidewalks.

The Washougal City Council is also considering the implementation of a $20 annual license tab fee, to go toward the city’s pavement management program. That fee, which would involve a six-month lag on collection timeframe, could generate $171,200 in 2019.

Battle Ground, Kelso and Longview each have a $20 annual license tab fee, while in Kalama and Vancouver, the tab fee is $40.

Mayor Molly Coston’s proposed budget for 2019 will be presented during the city council workshop, at 5 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22. A public hearing on the budget will be held during the council meeting, at 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 5.