TBD tax hike defeated by 61 votes in final count

The Sequim Transportation Benefit District's proposed two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase appeared to be defeated Nov. 12 after falling behind by 61 votes in the final ballot count.

Last Wednesday's tally of 4,200 ballots from all across the county, including 328 Sequim-area ballots, showed the measure with 1,636 "yes" votes, or 49.08 percent, to 1,697 "no" votes, or 50.92 percent.

"Right now there's no more left to count," said Patty Rosand, Clallam County auditor.

An estimated 61 ballots that arrive with valid postmarks from out of state or overseas will be counted on Nov. 25 prior to the canvassing board certifying the final election results, she said.

"Not all of those 61 ballots will be from Sequim, possibly very few of them," Rosand said.

Sequim Mayor Laura Dubois said Thursday morning that the election results were disappointing but that efforts to get more funding for the city's streets will continue.

"It's very disappointing. It could have been a great benefit to the citizens, especially since the people in the surrounding area would have to pay as well," she said.

"It might have worked better if we had had more time to educate the public on the benefits and also if the economy wasn't so bad. I'm sure most people just voted 'no' on anything that had to do with generating revenue," Dubois said.

"We need to save our infrastructure so we will regroup. We might do this again or might look for another funding source but we do have to save our streets," she said.

Mandatory ballot recounts apply only to candidates, not propositions. A recount could occur if five citizens request it and put down a deposit equal to 15 cents per ballot for a machine recount or 25 cents per ballot for a hand recount. If the recount doesn't change the results, then the requesting group also is responsible for any other costs such as equipment and staff time. If the cost is less than the deposit, then the balance is refunded.

The Sequim Transportation Benefit District is an independent taxing agency of the city that only can be used to fund approved transportation projects within the city.

Eligible projects range from safety projects to rehabilitation of existing facilities and new sidewalk and road construction.

The council voted 4-3 at its Aug. 11 meeting to send the two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase to the Nov. 4 general election ballot. The proposed sales tax increase - which would not have applied to food, prescriptions, gasoline, rent or mortgage payments - could have raised an estimated $600,000 based upon the city's 2007 sales tax figures.

The funding would have reduced the $840,000 the city is transferring from its $7.5 million general fund to its street fund for repair and maintenance projects in the 2009 budget.

The general fund pays for everything people generally associate with city government, including the police department, parks, building permits and code enforcement, planning, finance department, city attorney, city clerk and the city manager and council.

It doesn't include water and sewer service, which are separate funds financed through utility rates.

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