Transportation Benefit District (TBD)
We want to have a conversation with our community about how city services are funded.
The City of Blaine operates under a balanced budget, and has passed all financial and accountability audits by the state. City services (such as police, planning, economic development, the community center, streets, parks, library, and youth programs) are primarily funded by a tax on some utilities, a sales tax, and a property tax levy. You can find a full copy of the City’s 2017 Budget here.
The City has been working with residents and businesses to identify priorities for services and projects as part of a Strategic Economic Initiative completed this year. Learn more about this initiative here.
Like most cities, the demand for services in Blaine is higher than the revenue available to provide them. The City is limited by law to a one percent revenue increase per year on its property tax levy. It also retains less than one percent of the 8.5% sales tax remitted to the state. This is causing the City to look at different ways to fund the services and projects that local residents want.
Long-term, we need to have a conversation with our community about how to fund large projects like a library and cultural center. Short-term, we are focused on maintaining and improving streets, sidewalks and trail connections. Good transportation links are critical to economic development, which attracts and keeps businesses in Blaine, and welcomes people for shopping and tourism – all of which generate revenue for City services local residents want.
The City is considering asking voters to approve a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) for this purpose during the April 25, 2017 Special Election. The TBD would be funded for 10 years through two-tenths of one percent (0.2%) sales tax. This would make Blaine’s total sales tax rate 8.7%, which is the same as the neighboring communities of Bellingham, Lynden and Ferndale. It would generate approximately $200,000 a year for transportation projects and programs, and help the city provide matching funds for grant requests. A list of priority projects can be found here.
The Blaine community has approved special funding for city services before. Voters approved a 10-year property tax levy for streets in 1996. When the levy expired, the City Council issued bonds for street maintenance and improvements, but bonds costs Blaine taxpayers more due to interest payments. A sales tax increase means that visitors to Blaine from Canada and other communities will pay for the city services they use, such as streets and trails.
We would like to know what our community thinks about this idea. Please let us know your thoughts about the proposal at TBD@cityofblaine.com. Letters may also be sent to Ravyn Whitewolf, Public Works Director, 1200 Yew Avenue, Blaine, WA 98230. All communication is encouraged and becomes a matter of public record. Thank you!