The Bothell City Council approved a measure for this November’s ballot which, if approved, would levy a nine-year, 50 cent property tax per $1,000 of assessed value.
The taxes would go towards maintaining daily street repair and maintenance, preserving pavement and slow deteriorating road conditions, as well as constructing sidewalks and crosswalks on arterial streets especially along school walking routes.
The levy would cost around $188 annually for a home valued at $376,000 and would raise around $4 million annually.
According to a city press release, around $1.2 million per year has been cut since a 1999 initiative limited the motor vehicle excise tax and as other sources of funding have dried up.
Local motor vehicle excise fees were last collected in 2002 and street light fees were last collected in 2009. During that time local municipalities were hit by the recession, Bothell annexed significant areas and added infrastructure, such as the moving the Bothell-Everett Highway, Crossroads project and building a new city hall.
Councilmember Tris Samberg said since then the city has cobbled together various funding sources to address street and sidewalk operations funding but they have exhausted their one-time funds.
“In the absence of those revenue streams we’ve been using general fund money to maintain streets, we’ve been using one-time annexation funds to maintain those streets,” she said. “Now, we need to have a long-term revenue source to deal with our streets and build sidewalks and crosswalks in a proactive manner.”
The city would also provide annual reports to residents on improvements, which would help them decide if they wanted to renew the levy when it would expire in nine years, Samberg said.
City staff has been directed to budget for the possibility of the levy not passing and operating street maintainence and repairs with a greatly reduced capacity, Samberg said.
The City Council could also enact a $20 car tab fee without a city-wide vote, which would generate some funds for the operations.
The streets and sidewalks measure was placed on the ballot over additional funding for the fire department.
Maintaing roads while they are in decent condition can also prevent greater expenses caused my more significant road repairs or replacement over the next couple decades.
The Bothell Fire Department was also seeking some $600,000 annually for training and equipment as well as creating funds for a new fire station in south Bothell. However, the streets and sidewalks levy was approved at a June 7 City Council meeting with Councilmember Joshua Freed the only dissenting vote.
While it won’t be on this year’s ballot, Councilmember Del Spivey said finding a funding source for fire fighter training is crucial.
“Training is important, it’s paramount,” he said. “We’re behind on all of our training.”
With additional funds, Spivey said the department could seek training from outside the department to stay up to date on emerging techniques and practices.
He is also exploring ways to generate fire department funds but wouldn’t comment on ideas yet.
Samberg said if the levy does not pass, and street operations continues to rely on money from the general fund, it could be difficult to find ways to funnel more resources into the fire department.
She said the council will look at ways to budget for increased training funds in the upcoming budget, but said that road conditions need to be addressed immediately.
“If we do nothing, and if we just are able to maintain our pavement at levels now, or even reduced with lack of street operations funding, then we have a much bigger maintenance backlog down the line,” she said.