Tacoma might drop pothole project
A big dip in property tax assessments has spurred City of Tacoma officials to back off a plan for a ballot measure this fall that would have asked voters to raise property taxes to fix the city’s pothole-riddled streets.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax announced Wednesday he has recommended against the proposed levy lid lift, which had sought to raise property taxes by 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. It would have raised an estimated $9 million per year for six years for street improvements.
The measure was one of several recommendations made by a citizens’ task force formed to examine ways to deal with Tacoma’s rampant street problems, now estimated to cost $800 million to fix.
But city officials nixed the idea this week, after the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer’s Office announced last month that assessed property values in Tacoma had plummeted by about 10 percent.
The drop meant the city could, at most, raise only about half of the hoped-for $9 million per year, officials said Wednesday.
“At this point, the return would be insignificant,” Councilman Anders Ibsen said. “It would be a waste of our time to pursue that (ballot measure) option.”
Had voters approved the measure, Tacoma also would have maxed out its available property tax funding capacity, Public Works Director Dick McKinley added.
In a news release Wednesday, Mayor Marilyn Strickland called the city’s reversal “a strategically sound recommendation that is financially responsible and will maximize taxpayer investment.”
Broadnax is expected to brief the council on the issue and discuss alternatives Tuesday, city spokeswoman Gwen Schuler said.
At least two other recommendations made by the task force – options that wouldn’t require voter approval – remain on the table. They include issuing a utility revenue bond package to coordinate replacement of aging sewer and stormwater systems and imposing a $20 car-tab fee to fund a new transportation benefit district.
“I know the council will be looking at all those options,” McKinley said. “They understand clearly how important it is to fix the roads.”
Tacoma is not the only large local city taking steps to pay for new street work. The Lakewood City Council this month will vote on forming its own transportation benefit district as it tries to keep 431 lane miles of city streets from falling into disrepair.
Just two months ago, Tacoma was poised to move ahead with a fall ballot measure after receiving results from a $12,000 poll that showed 68 percent of Tacoma voters supported raising taxes for road improvements.
Last month, Broadnax and the council formed a new citizens task force charged with drafting a priority list of road projects. Despite the city’s reversal on the ballot measure, the task force still will be asked to complete its work.
“That will be useful for us in the future, if funding does become available,” Schuler said.