Would You Pay A Vehicle License Tab Fee To Help Fix Burien's Roads?
Will $10 â€“ or $20 â€“ vehicle license tab fees be coming to Burien soon?
City council members agree that an ongoing street maintenance program is needed â€“ beginning soon â€“ to keep Burienâ€™s streets in good condition and to avoid the far costlier process of rebuilding them later.
They also concur, reluctantly, that with a pared-down city budget, which has put asphalt-overlay projects on hold for the last two years, the only way to pay for it is with a special revenue package just for roads.
But no sitting city council can tell future councils how to spend money, and that reality concerns this group of lawmakers. They want to insure that all special revenue for roads goes, without exception, to roads and isnâ€™t tapped for other programs in the future.
With this in mind, council members moved closer on April 12 to giving a green light to a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) in Burien that would help pay for the asphalt overlay program â€“ and perhaps provide some matching funds for a freeway off-ramp to the Northeast Redevelopment Area as well.
Revenue raised through TBD license tab fees can be used only for the transportation purposes designated when the district was created.
With 35,745 registered vehicles in Burien, including newly annexed North Burien, which will be included in the proposed 20-year asphalt overlay program, a $20 fee would generate an estimated $636,966 annually, a $10 fee $381,483, and a $5 fee $159,242, City Finance Director Tabatha Miller told lawmakers.
Proposed by City Manager Mike Martin and Public Works Director Larry Blanchard, the ambitious program would cost $19.4 million over the next 20 years. Without it, they have said, streets will deteriorate and require repairs that cost 5 to 10 times as much routine maintenance.
An asphalt overlay of just 2 inches can keep a good street in good condition, Blanchard noted. That is the aim of this plan, which would maintain Burienâ€™s road system at an average Pavement Condition Index of 80 percent. Currently, city streets average 68 percent on that index.
The program, as proposed to the council, would cost Burien $8.6 million to upgrade those streets that are in the worst condition, yet can still be upgraded with overlays, during the balance of 2010 and in 2011. Beginning in 2012, the ongoing overlay program would continue at a cost of $600,000 annually.
By contrast, the cost of completely rebuilding deteriorated streets is around $231 million at current construction costs, Blanchard added.
Miller has recommended paying for the maintenance project with Build America Bonds with annual bond payments of $650,000. She said the total investment including bond payments from 2010 forward would cost the city $1.25 million.
Based on her initial suggestions for additional revenue sources, combined with priorities recommended by council members on March 29, most of the annual $1.25 million payment could come from $750,000 in operating savings with the city assuming surface water management and transportation services from King County, $100,000 in property tax from the Capital Reserve Fund, $100,000 in Seattle City Light in-lieu fees.
The remaining $300,000 could come from annual $10 license tab fees established by a TBD.
Councilman Brian Bennett wondered what the new residents in North Burien think about the proposed fees, and then asked if it is possible to reduce the estimated cost by reducing the scope of the asphalt-overlay program.
While costs always can be reduced, Martin replied, the corresponding reduced maintenance will result in the gradual deterioration of some streets.
Mayor Joan McGilton likened this approach to applying a coat of primer to a house without adding the main coat of paint. That, added Blanchard, would push the higher costs of rebuilding roads onto future users of city streets.
Councilman Jack Block Jr. expressed concern about the lack of an inflation factor in the 20-year cost projection, which Blanchard said was left out to avoid complicating the calculations. But, he suggested, the same inflationary factors that would increase long-range costs would also increase projected revenues.
Block also said while a $10 license tab fee would be a â€œreasonable cost,â€ $20 could be too much because â€œpeople are having issues right now. We need to be cautious in the fees we ask the citizens to pay.â€
Although Councilman Gordon Shaw said he liked â€œthe program before us with $10 car tab fees,â€ another $10 could be used in the future toward an off-ramp that would serve the Northeast Redevelopment Area. â€œThis would get more land into [commercial] production to generate the additional taxesâ€ the city needs, he noted.
Other council members also indicated support for using some car-tab revenue for such an off-ramp. And Councilwoman Lucy Krakowiak endorsed using a $20 fee to pay for asphalt overlays with leftover funds going to the off-ramp.
Martin informed council members that license tab fees could be designated for the off-ramp as well as for the overlay program at the time a TBD is established.
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