University Place adds $20 fee to car tabs

Tacoma News TribuneDecember 17, 2013 

By next summer University Place residents will see $20 added to their car tab renewals, a move approved by the City Council Monday to generate money to help pay for city road maintenance.

The council voted 5 to 2, with councilmen Kent Keel and Chris Nye opposed, to approve the collection. The fee will appear on car tab renewals by June or July.

The city will collect the fee for five years, unless a future council votes to extend it. That restriction was added by the council because some feared once the fee was added it would be hard to remove.

Mayor Ken Grassi voted against establishing a transportation benefit district earlier this month for that reason.

“I can’t stand double taxation, and the trouble with these kinds of things is once they get on the books it’s very hard to get rid of them,” Grassi said last month.

He voted in favor of the $20 fee Monday because of the time limit.

Keel knows the city needs the estimated $300,000 in annual revenues the $20 fee would generate, but he voted against the measure Monday because he thinks more should be done to make taxpayers aware of the city’s challenging overall financial situation.

University Place is looking for a sustainable way to pay for roads, police, and parks and recreation. The renewal fee is a drop in the bucket for road maintenance, and Keel wants a solution that addresses other city needs as well, he said.

The city of 31,000 residents currently uses gas tax revenues and money from its general fund to cover road maintenance costs. The car tab fee will offset some of the impact on the general fund, but UP will have to find other ways to pay for the rising cost of road work.

Under Washington law, city or county governments can set up transportation benefit districts and impose an additional vehicle registration fee to fund local transportation projects. Among Pierce County’s larger cities, Tacoma this year started collecting a $20 car tab fee; Lakewood has established a district but has not yet imposed the fee.

The idea is catching on. On Tuesday, the Pierce County Council voted to request that county Executive Pat McCarthy develop a transportation benefit district proposal for potential council consideration in early 2014. McCarthy had asked for the authority to do so.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467 brynn.grimley@thenewstribune.com

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