City looking at a Transportation Benefit District… more tax possible

by Richard Uhlhorn

City Administrator Farris presented the American Rescue Plan, Transportation Benefit Districts and Tax Increment Funding information to Council at the Strategic Retreat on September 25, 2021. Due to time constraints, it was decided to continue the discussion at a Regular Council meeting.

City Administrator Wade Ferris presented a potential for the City to create a Transportation Benefit District and ways to finance projects which could include a new 0.2% sales tax.

Ferris gave the Council an update on the potential of the city creating a Transportation Benefit District (TBD). “It is another source of funding for transportation projects,” said Ferris. “Something this community needs is sidewalks,” he added.

He explained that there are two ways the City could raise money within a TBD. The first is to apply a fee to car tabs without voter approval starting at $20 and increasing up to $40 after the $20 fee has been in effect for 24 months and then up to $50 after the $40 fee has been in effect for 24 months.

Any license fees over these amounts, up to a maximum of $100 must be approved by a simple majority of voters. “I don’t think our constituents would be happy with this,” he added.

The other common funding source fot TBDs is a sales and use tax up to 0.2% which must be approved by a simple majority of voters. “The impact of this method is a lot less,” said Ferris. “Visitors would also help pay and it would be hardly noticeable.”

The only downside to a 0.2% sales tax is voter resistance to a new tax. To make it happen, it would require a public hearing to establish a boundary, which would be the city limits.

A governing board would be established with city council. The sales tax method would only stay in place for 10 years. “It could not stay in place (after 10 years) without public approval,” stated Ferris.

Councilman Chris Baker remarked that the a fire levy and school levy are already in front of or will be in front of the public.

Councilman Peter Jamtgaard added that the City would need to more specific with its plans instead of just adding another tax. Councilman John Olson said, “Let’s see what has happened in other communities. It would be nice to hear about it.”

Councilwoman Erin McCardle asked, “Where is that funding going. What are we adding to the mix that we can’t do today?”

Jamtgaard added that it would be nice to see photos and examples of projects. “It is hard for people to visualize projects.”

Ferris said he would move forward with getting answers to the questions and try to get the measure on the ballot in 2022.

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth add that it would be good for these funds if the City had something to sell to the public.

Ferris suggested forming the District and then deciding what to do. Councilman Ty Witt stated that he personally sees this as a hard sell. “Fifty percent of the voters are not going to benefit from this. Why would they vote for sidewalks not in their neighborhood?”

Mayor Goedde remarked that the 0.2% Toyota Tax has a Sunset Clause. Witt said he had a meeting on Thursday and would check on that.

Public Works:

Due to the pending demolition of the existing Public Works Department’s Administrative Facility the City Council has approved a temporary office rental to maintain operations.

The plan is to rent 1000 square feet at the Chelan Business Center for $1,300 a month. “This will buy us time until the new building is finished,” said Public Works Director Jake Youngren. The Council approved the rental,

FINANCE:

Residents will soon be able to set-up payments to the City through Invoice Cloud (a partner with Vision Utility Billing) providing customers to have online access to their account information. This promotes E-Billing (paperless billing) and enables customers to pay bills using a wide variety of methods including credit cards, Online Bank Direct -ACH payment from customer bank to the City – Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, PayPal, autopay, pay by text, e-checks and others as they become available.

Customer use of invoice cloud will be voluntary and require action on the customers part to set up an account or pay as a visitor. Customers wishing to receive a paper invoice and pay by check or other means as is currently done will be able to continue doing so.

The City currently issues 2,900 bills / month. Of these 1,150 are direct debit payments, 200 online credit card payments, and 150 bank issue checks per month.

1. Savings in postage, copier costs, and staff time.

2. Invoice Cloud is integrated with Vision Utility Billing. Customers will have online access to account information, and customer payments through Invoice Cloud will be deposited to the City bank account and payment information posted to customer accounts electronically.

3. Customers who sign up for e-billing will receive invoices and reminders by text or email, as well as electronic flyers.

4. Customers will be able to pay their utility bills when they want, and to use the payment method of their choosing.

5. Credit card acceptance at City Hall using a “kiosk” approach.

6. Landlords will have the ability to set up their account, and grant access to tenants (when the tenant is responsible for the utility bill).

7. Features Cloud Store which provides a shopping cart ability to pay more than one invoice per process and Cloud Payment allows integration with third party systems to accept payments for non-invoiced items (perhaps, parking or permits, or perhaps program enrollments).

8. The City would hold no bank or credit card information, and PCI compliance will be the responsibility of InvoiceCloud.

Costs – City:

1. $100 per month ($1,200 per year) access fee – maintenance, support, upgrades, and access to the system for the City and customers.

2. $.40 per paperless invoice issued (current postage cost is $.53 per invoice plus envelope, plus handling). Customer Costs 1. 2.95% per transaction for credit cards with a minimum of $1.95. Current card charges are 2.5% with a $2.00 minimum charge.

3. E-Check Fee $1.95. Current charge is $1.50 3. ACH Autopay – $.95 per transaction

4. Online Bank Direct $.20 per per check (would replace direct debit. Online Bank Direct will allow e-billing, which does not support direct debit))

5. Credit Card or ACH rejects (NSF) – $15 (in addition to City $25 NSF fee)

Parks Branding:

Parks Director Paul Horne told the Council that the branding project being proposed was not going off in left field in answer to the City’s Way Finding efforts. “The Chamber has done well with branding. We had four firms and this group (Arnett Muldrow) specializes in this kind of work,” said Horne.

Parks Director Paul Horne stated that the upcoming Branding Project for the City’s Parks will remain consistent with the City’s Way Finding efforts.

The plan is to stay consistent with the current branding efforts. Cost of the project is $11,000 with $4,000 held in contingencies. Horne reported that the design team will work closely with the HDCA and Chamber of Commerce to insure the branding efforts will complement other branding efforts.

McCardle said she was excited to see how those various projects are tied together. “It will elevate the awareness of what we have in this valley.”

Olson asked if the PUD parks were included because visitors don’t know the difference. Horne said the PUD parks were not a part of the project.

The council authorized the Mayor to execute and finalize the contract with Arnett Muldrow & Associates.

Mayor/Council comments:

Hollingsworth remarked that a letter received from downtown businesses showing a rift between businesses over potential work in the alley between Columbia and Emerson Streets. “I hope they can bring some consensus with the downtown businesses,” he said. “It they want real support, they need to come up unified and bury the hatchet. There has to be a solution there.”

Public Works Director Jake Youngren said the issues are something public works is completely aware of. “We will do what we can to provide sanitation during construction,” he said. He said the game plan was to bring in a 20-yard garbage container and a 10-yard recycle container using the old Chamber parking lot.

John Olson was not happy with the Chamber requesting $800,000 next year to solicit more visitors. “We obviously are failing to adequately serve the visitors that we already have.” He stated that the Chamber reported 2 million annual visitors to Chelan.

City Council member John Olson is concerned with the failing infrastructure and the massive new development in the City.

Olson also remarked that Chelan’s infrastructure hasn’t changed significantly since he was a child 70 years ago. “We have a failing infrastructure already, as we discussed tonight, and there are thousands of housing units being developed right now”

Olson also stated that he attended the Keep It Blue campaign meeting at the Boat Club last week and said there are some issues on the lake that we should all be aware of.

Mayor Goedde announced that LINK will be developing new routes throughout the valley.

Ferris said the Airport management will begin clocking the number of landings and takeoffs at the Chelan Airport, which is important information when going after grants.

Mayor Goedde added that a commercial airline wants to use the airport twice a day. He also stated it was important to get water flow to the airport so it could develop.

The next Council meeting will be held on November 9 beginning at 6 p.m.

Author: allthingslakechelan

I have been a journalist, photojournalist and reporter in the Lake Chelan Valley since 1988; first with the Wenatchee World, then 15 years at the Lake Chelan Mirror and another 12 years at GoLakeChelan. Currently, I am semi-retired but can't give up the media gig which is why I started All Things Lake Chelan blog. I also have two social media platforms; allthingslakechelan/facebook and lakechelansportsandrecration/facebook. I am also a professional photographer with many credits with major outlets around the world.

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