The proposed Transportation Benefit District sales tax increase that was narrowly defeated in November 2008 could be headed to the ballot again in November 2009. Or not.
At its June 8 meeting, Interim City Manager Linda Herzog told the city council members they must decide by Aug. 11 whether to put the two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase for the Sequim Transportation Benefit District on the Nov. 3 ballot.
The measure, which would have applied within the boundaries of the Sequim School District not just the city, was defeated by 61 votes in the November 2008 election.
Mayor Laura Dubois and Councilor Susan Lorenzen were part of a grassroots effort to help pass that measure but now don't agree about trying again in November.
"I'm all for it. It lost last time by 61 votes, which is a very, very, very, very small margin," Lorenzen said at the meeting.
When that election was run, the economy was going downhill so there was more fear then than there is now, she said.
"People are settled now that it is a bad economy. We just need to do this so we can fund our roads from everyone who uses our city," she said.
When challenged by Councilor Paul McHugh about what would be done differently in this campaign, Lorenzen said more one-on-one interaction and doorbelling.
They will increase that 10-fold because she personally supports it, Lorenzen said.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the city should seek a campaign committee before the proposal becomes a ballot issue.
Once the proposal becomes a ballot issue, all the city is allowed to do legally is hold one informational meeting and distribute one flier, he said.
The city should solicit a campaign committee, then submit the ballot issue, Ritchie said.
"It's time to see if we can form a committee. The economy's a concern and we have to see if we can get it passed," Dubois said.
But after the meeting, Dubois sounded more cautious.
"We won't discuss it heavily until August when we decide if we'll do it.
"Susan and I were part of very small organization that tried last time because we saw the benefit to a small number of people since we would get money from the large number of people who come into town to shop," she said.
The city has no dedicated funding sources for its streets so it can't do street improvements and might have to cut back on maintenance and repair as well, Dubois said.
"It's not a good time for the economy, so we may have to wait. Sometime I would like to bring it to the voters.
"We should wait until the economy is in better condition in my opinion. I realize Susan is chomping at the bit but I also realize the citizens are not in favor at this point," Dubois said.
Councilor Walt Schubert expressed his opposition during the meeting, saying this is not the time to put the measure on the ballot and a sales tax increase will just hurt businesses.
Herzog said city staff would bring the issue back at the July 13 or July 27 council meeting.
Reach Brian Gawley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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