Kenmore drivers forced to pony-up

  • Written by Don Mann
When in doubt, tax the people.

That’s the long and the short of it as the Kenmore City Council, calling itself a Transportation Benefit District, enacted a $20 vehicle fee hike for its residents.

It will begin six months from now, when drivers purchase new car tabs.

The revenue generated by the fee — expected to be $535,000 over a two-year period, $1.3 million over five — will go for transportation capital projects and road preservation, according to City Engineer Kris Overleese.

The vote was 5-2 in favor, with Mayor David Baker and Councilmember Allan Van Ness opposed.

“I think a $20 tab fee increase should go to the vote of the people and that’s why I’ll be voting no,” Van Ness said.

Said Councilmember Bob Hensel, who chairs the committee and was an advocate for the fee: “It’s very important that we maintain our roads as best we can. It’s one of the largest and most expensive services we provide other than police … This fee will go directly to Kenmore, not outside agencies.”

Before the vote, three citizens spoke in a public hearing on a rain-drenched night. Two were in support of the fee; one was adamantly opposed.

One supporter added the caveat that she’d like the city to find a way to capture some funds from the non-residents that drive through Kenmore on a regular basis.

The other supporter wished to expand exemptions to the disabled and people with fixed incomes.

The naysayer said a further tax on tabs was “frivolous, unnecessary …downright unlawful and  outrageous.” He suggested, with conviction, taxing bicyclists instead.

Kenmore established a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) in April, its prerogative by law.  At its October 22 meeting, the TBD board, otherwise known as the Kenmore City Council, directed staff to bring forth a TBD Resolution to adopt a $20 vehicle fee, noting it was the only funding option being pursued at this time.

There had been some talk about establishing a toll on the Sammamish River Bridge, though that was quickly nixed by the TBD in hindsight.

According to Overleese, the Department of Licensing (DOL) estimates there are 16,107 vehicles in Kenmore, according to 2011 data.

The DOL, which also collects a 1 percent administrative fee, has stated that jurisdictions which impose the vehicle fee collect approximately 83 percent of the revenue.

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