Sales tax increase trails in Woodland

0.2% hike would be for transportation projects in city

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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Woodland residents were rejecting a 0.2 percent sales tax for transportation projects through the city’s new transportation benefit district 52.09 percent to 47.91 percent as of Tuesday night.

The vote on the tax, which would have been on top of the city’s 7.8 percent sales tax rate, was failing 611 to 562 votes not long after the polls closed. More ballots are expected to be counted in the coming days.

On the Cowlitz County side of Woodland, the increase was failing 596 to 533. On the Clark County side, 29 cast votes in favor of the tax, while 15 voted no.

City or county governments can create the districts, which can charge extra vehicle registration fees or levy sales taxes to fund local transportation-related projects.

Proponents said the tax would raise $234,000 per year, and using a sales tax instead of a vehicle fee would spread the burden to everyone who shops in Woodland. Also, it would create some flexibility in the city’s general fund for other needs.

Critics decried the tax increase’s additional burden, and noted the money, possibly $2 million over 10 years, wouldn’t make much of a dent in the city’s transportation infrastructure needs.

Battle Ground formed a transportation district in 2014, and it raised $203,000 in its first year. Vancouver’s district started July 1, and the city predicted it would take in $2.4 million in its first year. Those cities, however, chose to create a $20 vehicle registration fee, which did not have to go to voters for approval.