Walla Walla voters to consider sales tax increase for streets

By The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin January 31, 2012 

WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla voters will consider a measure to repair and maintain city streets calls for a two-tenths of a percent increase in sales tax within the city limits, a rate expected to raise about $1 million a year in the Feb. 14 election. Ballots were mailed last week.

The city's sales tax rate is 8.7 percent.

City attorney Tim Donaldson explained that all projects funded by the sales-tax increase will have to be part of a long list of approved road improvements, all of which are authorized by the Transportation Benefit District board.

The proposed sales-tax increase had come under some criticism last year because state law allows Transportation Benefit District funds to be used for projects such as improving air quality or public transportation.

"It would be pretty hard for them to go on a spending spree with this money," Donaldson said of the new measure. "It is pretty well constrained by the statutes to the ones that are qualified and are listed and meet the criteria."

The top five of 26 street projects on a list prepared by city officials include an overlay of Rose Street from Second Avenue to Myra Road; chip sealing Alder Street from Wilbur Avenue to Park Street; reconstructing Howard Street from Alder Street to Reser Road; an overlay of Isaacs Avenue from Wilbur Avenue to Rose Street; and chip sealing Ninth Avenue from Pine Street to Rees Avenue.

Donaldson said changes to the list must be voted on by the district board, comprised of council members.

If approved, the sales-tax increase could not go beyond 10 years without being approved again by voters.

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