Sales tax measure set for inclusion on April ballot

Will Blaine be the next city in Washington to fund transportation projects for streets, sidewalks and trails with a sales tax? That’s up to voters to decide.

During a special meeting on February 13, Blaine City Council voted to place a sales tax measure on the April 2017 special election ballot. If approved by a simple majority of voters, the city would see a .2 percent hike in the sales tax to generate an estimated $200,000 for transportation projects over the next 10 years.

The funding employs a Transportation Benefit District (TBD), which the council voted to form on January 23. The district can generate funding through a number of means, such as a sales tax or vehicle licensing fee. Neighboring Bellingham, Lynden and Ferndale already leverage funding through a TBD using a sales tax.

Staff with the city of Blaine recommended raising the funds through a sales tax because it doesn’t solely place the burden on Blaine residents. An estimated 50 percent of sales tax funds generated in the city come directly from tourists, while another 35 percent is received from mail order retail sales, said public works director Ravyn Whitewolf back in December.

In 1996, Blaine voters approved a 10-year property tax levy for street maintenance and improvement. Shortly after it expired, the city issued a $6.8 million 10-year bond that will be paid off in December 2017. If voters approve to hike the sales tax from 8.5 percent to 8.7 in April, the funding would be used to obtain additional grant funding, Whitewolf said.

The cost to the city to place a measure on the special election ballot is an estimated $25,000. According to a staff report, the city allocated $20,000 in the 2017 budget.

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