Lacey City Council on Thursday wrestled with when to place its Transportation Benefit District measure on the ballot, ruling out this year’s November general election but coming to no conclusion on an April special election or the August primary.
The council finally capped its Thursday night work session by agreeing to this: Members want more information about the cost to the city of holding a special election compared with placing the issue on the August primary ballot. Mayor Andy Ryder estimated the cost of a special election at about $150,000.
The Transportation Benefit District would raise money for city street repairs. Under the plan, voters will be asked to approve a 0.2 percentage point increase in the city sales tax rate, which would boost it to 8.9 percent from 8.7 percent. The increase would raise about $1.6 million a year for a limited term of 10 years.
But when should Lacey voters consider the measure?
Councilman Jason Hearn suggested the November general election, given the heightened interest in the presidential race and the number of people who will turn out for that vote. But other council members shot down that idea for the same reasons.
“They might vote for president and leave the rest of the ballot blank,” Councilman Michael Steadman warned.
“Getting it done early has some appeal to me,” said Councilman Lenny Greenstein about an April special election, “but I’m also concerned about the cost.”
Despite the cost, the council also had this to consider: The city of Tumwater held a special election for its Transportation Benefit District last year and it passed with 67 percent of the vote.
The council still wants to hear from the business community about potentially raising the sales tax. Ryder and Greenstein are set to meet with the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce next week to gauge their willingness to support the increase.
If the business community is totally against it, that will mean more conversation for the council, Ryder said.