Now comes the hard part.
The Lakewood City Council has voted to form an independent taxing district to raise money for street work. It still must decide how much the new district will ask for and what to spend the money on.
Answers to those questions have eluded officials for months despite extensive review by two groups: a citizens advisory committee and a committee of three council members. The full council, serving as the new district’s governing board, will continue the discussion next month.
“Today isn’t a finish line,” Councilman Mike Brandstetter said at the Monday night meeting when the vote was taken. “Today is a waypoint that is going to expand our options.”
City officials say they need more money to keep streets from deteriorating, but can’t squeeze enough from their tight general fund budget. They say they have no dedicated funds to pave streets to extend their life, and the longer they don’t receive maintenance, the more it will cost to repair them.
The city estimates it needs $5 million a year to maintain 431 lane miles of streets, which are in good condition overall. The tax being considered would cover a portion of that.
The council has repeatedly pledged that voters will decide whether the taxing district, formally known as a transportation benefit district, assesses a tax. The council has discussed asking voters to increase their property taxes 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to generate an estimated $1.8 million a year.
At this point, the earliest a measure could go to voters is next year. Tuesday was the deadline for cities to place measures on the November ballot.
Councilman Jason Whalen said the poor economy is forcing Lakewood’s hand by sapping revenues that could go to street work. The city is facing a 3 percent reduction in its general fund for the coming biennium, he said.
“It’s frustrating to find ourselves in this economic situation,” he email@example.com