Now is the wrong time for a street repair tax

  • Friday, October 11, 2019 7:16pm
  • News

Few people seem very excited about an Oak Harbor ballot measure that would raise sales tax by a small amount to fund street repairs and maintenance.

There are no groups promoting it, nor are there signs supporting it. Elected officials aren’t out singing its praises. The online voters guide has no explanatory statement nor arguments for and against. A link to information about the measure isn’t highlighted on the city’s website.

The proposed sales tax increase appears to be doomed, which isn’t a bad thing.

Simply said, a new tax is not what Oak Harbor residents are in the mood for right now.

Many are still justifiably upset about the unexpected increase in the cost of the sewage treatment plant and the accompanying rate hikes.

Many of those same people also question how city leaders allowed the streets to get into such a state of disrepair.

The proposed measure would increase sales tax by just two-tenth of 1 percent in the city, which would amount to an extra $1 on a $500 purchase. It’s not a lot, but it is a regressive tax and everyone knows how small taxes can add up. It would generate nearly $1 million a year — estimated — that can only be used for street repair, maintenance and perhaps related projects like sidewalks.

Other cities in the state also formed transportation benefit districts, which allows them to raise money in a variety of ways, but only sales tax and a vehicle license fees seem applicable to Oak Harbor.

Mayor Bob Severns and Councilwoman Beth Munns voiced concerns that the decision to place the measure on the November ballot was made just three months before the election. They said it might not give officials enough time to organize an educational campaign.

They were right.

Perhaps city leaders can try again in the future, but with a plan for gathering public input, organizing support and educating the community — not just about the measure but about the choices that can be made in the budget.

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