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Oct. 2, 2022

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Woodland City Council moves ahead on sales tax plan

If approved, tax would fund road maintenance in city for 10 years


WOODLAND — After years of voters rejecting a sales tax to cover city roadwork, Woodland is using a new state law to enact a tax directly.

The Woodland City Council on Tuesday held a public hearing and initial vote supporting creating a 0.1 percent retail sales and use tax within the city to fund road projects through Woodland’s transportation benefit district. The tax would add 1 cent for every $10 spent within city limits.

The council will hold a second and final vote on whether to pass the ordinance at the next council meeting in July. If approved, the tax will be in place for the next 10 years.

City Administrator Peter Boyce estimated the sales and use tax would provide the city around $130,000 for road projects each year, depending on the strength of the local economy.

Woodland established its transportation benefit district in 2016, which covers the entirety of the city limits, but has not had a mechanism to fund it. The city has run three ballot measures to enact a 0.2 percent sales tax within the city, the most recent of which was in 2021. Every time, between 51 percent and 55 percent of votes were cast in opposition to the tax.

“I think there’s a lot of concern around the community for the existing infrastructure and how it’s being maintained, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see what they think,” Boyce said.

Before she was elected to the city council, DeeAnna Holland wrote a voters’ pamphlet statement opposing the sales and use tax for the transportation benefit district. Holland said during Tuesday’s meeting the city has a stronger plan to handle future road improvements than it did before and felt the work needed to be addressed soon.

“On one hand, you hear people complain about the roads; but on the other hand, they don’t want to pay for the roads,” she said. “You really can’t have it both ways. The money has to come from somewhere.”

Woodland’s ability to enact the tax through a council vote came from the state Legislature earlier this year. The change was included in Senate Bill 5974, the funding and revenue portion of the Move Ahead Washington transportation package.

One of the many funding changes made in the bill allows the governing body of a local transportation benefit district to enact a sales and use tax of up to 0.1 percent by a majority vote of the district’s governing body.

Larger taxes still need to be approved by voters as a ballot measure.

The Woodland City Council also serves as the governing board for the transportation district. During Tuesday’s meeting, council members focused on the ways the tax would bring in money from people who don’t live in the city limits but visit stores as they’re driving through.

The vote comes just weeks after Woodland’s City Council voted to suspend transportation impact fees through the end of June 2024. Impact fees are a one-time cost the city normally charges commercial and industrial developers to help pay for new or expanded roads. Council members said dropping the fee would hopefully attract new developers.

Boyce said impact fees are used for projects directly related to growth and expansion within the city, like intersection improvements, while the tax for the transportation benefit district can support a broader set of street projects. The focus of the district is road maintenance.

Councilor Monte Smith said he had “heartache” to see the impact fee holiday and the tax come up in back-to-back meetings. Smith said the transportation benefit district sales tax was the best “bang for your buck for city residents” because of the new revenue source from out-of-town visitors.


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