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Poulsbo considering Transportation Benefit District

The city of Poulsbo is exploring establishing a Transportation Benefit District, which would provide funding for transportation improvement projects.

Poulsbo is the only city in Kitsap County that doesn’t already have one.

Such a district could fund projects including improvements to neighborhood streets and sidewalks, improvements in general traffic safety and street construction, as well as small street repair and maintenance jobs that would not be covered by capital project funds.

TBD funds could not be used for other government projects or operations. The funds are typically generated through vehicle licence fees, such as car tabs, or sales taxes.

“The most common approach, and the approach that I think the council is looking at, is a ‘councilmatic’ license tab fee,” said Debbie Booher, Poulsbo’s finance director. “What the council has the ability to do right now, without a vote of the people, is establish a $20 councilmatic fee which would generate roughly $90,000 in revenue for the city of Poulsbo in revenue.”

A 2015 change in the state legislature would allow the city to increase the fee to $40 after having the $20 fee for two years and to $50 after having the $40 for two years. The fee could be increased every two years until it reached $100, at which point a vote of the people would be necessary.

Funding via sales tax would require voter approval. The city could collect up to 0.2 percent of the sales tax, which would come out to about $550,000 in revenue for the city. If approved, the funding would be good for the next decade, but would need to be voted on again in 2031.

“Minimal cities have implemented this option, some of them have and have done some very strong campaigns to keep them approved by voters,” Booher said.

A third funding option comes from property taxes. This funding would require voter approval and would last for one year unless the city goes out for voted debt, at which point it would last the length of the debt.

Councilwoman Connie Lord voiced TBD concerns prior to development of the Poulsbo Events and Recreation Center, noting the public would have to vote on both, and it could be a lot to ask if they came at the same time.

“My concern is … how often can we go to the well? If we are asking voter to say … if we don’t do this as a councilmatic thing or even if we do how much do we think that it might impact the impulse of voters to support another tax or another increase in their fee? Lord asked.

“I’m just a little concerned about the timing… if we were to do this prior to the big ask of the citizens to form a Metropolitan Park District, is that going to dilute the favorable response to that?”

Sharing similar concerns, Councilman Ed Stern recommended that a the city get public input before voting on the TBD.

“We don’t need to make up our minds right now. Wwhat we need to do is inform the public,” Stern said.

Stern reccommended that a map of the streets that are in need of repair along with a survey go onto the city website and into the utility bills for city residents to see which options they prefer. The survey would explain the need for the TBD and why the city is considering it.

Booher said a TBD has been discussed before, but never moved beyond that because of the fee structure. However the council is interested in funds to maintain and repair neighborhood streets, which are ineligible for grant funding.

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