Blaine city council voted unanimously to support state legislation that would, if passed, give cities like Blaine the option to form special taxing districts for park improvements and operations.
At their January 13 meeting, Blaine city councilmembers voted 7-0 to support HB 1371 and SB 5680 which, if passed in Olympia, would enable Blaine voters to approve the formation of a local parks benefit district, or PBD.
The PBD would be similar to the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) that is already in place in Blaine. The PBD would have independent taxing authority to levy a local sales and use tax of up to 0.1 percent, subject to voter approval. Funds would be levied and received by the city of Blaine and would be used for eligible park improvements and operations.
“What you’re doing tonight is just deciding whether or not you think this is a good idea,” city manager Michael Jones told councilmembers prior to the vote. “What you do tonight does not create a tax or create the authority for a tax. It would be something the state legislature would choose to do or not do. And ultimately, that may become a tool available to the city in the future.”
While the issue was not on the city’s legislative agenda for the 2020 session, Jones said that he was alerted to it by the city’s consultants in Olympia. He told councilmembers that if they voted to support the legislation, “then we would take appropriate actions with our lobbyists in Olympia and the city would communicate that message to the legislature, including our District 42 legislators.”
Jones said that the PBD would be different than the city’s park and cemetery board or Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2. He said city council would act as the board for the new taxing district and would be able to spend the money raised on local park services, such as the construction and maintenance of park facilities. He said that the new tax, if it becomes a reality, would free up revenue for other services that the city would like to provide its residents.
“We are challenged with adequate funding for general fund services like parks, police, streets and those kinds of things,” he said. He cautioned that the final language of HB 1371 and SB 5680 could change during the ongoing legislative session in Olympia.
Prior to the vote, Bonnie Onyon, who was re-appointed mayor by her fellow councilmembers at the meeting, said that she was in favor of the state legislation. “I’m going to support this because it does give us some local control,” she said. “It gives us the ability to allow our citizens to decide if they want to form a parks benefit district just like we did with transportation.”