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December 29, 1997

Local News

Taxes tabled once more

  by Andrew Walgamott
   WOODINVILLE--With his days numbered, an outgoing councilmember brought up utility taxes once again at December 15 Woodinville City Council meeting, and once again the issue was tabled without resolution until next year. It may have been the last chance to dedicate an estimated $540,000 in revenues the city could raise from a city-wide two percent tax on electricity and natural gas and four percent tax on telephone and garbage service to street work.
   While some councilmembers and the city manager want to set aside the revenues in a Capital Street Reserve Fund, a yet-to-be-sworn-in councilmember has expressed interest in splitting the proceeds with parks while another is against a hasty decision. The tax will be discussed before a new council January 26. The council had tabled the issue until Jan. 12 at the Dec. 1 meeting.
   Last week, Councilman Art Saulness, at his last meeting, brought the tax back up. He said he'd spoken to businesses and citizens and while nobody was in favor of taxes, he believed they wanted any taxes the city collected to go to city's highest priorities-streets, in his mind. He's also said it should be included in the yearly budgetary process. Speaking out strongly to the council, City Manager Roy Rainey argued that the tax be set aside for roads, calling the money that the city has spent on streets since incorporation in 1993 "an embarrassment in my opinion." He estimated that in the four years of cityhood, Woodinville has spent only $2.8 million on its streets, while $9.5 million will go towards parks if the city is to buy the C.O. Sorenson complex, assuming 60 percent of the asking price for the property is for ballfields and 15 percent for pool, gym and parking. Later, Rainey explained that Woodinville will have a shortfall for street work in the coming years. He said for 1998, the city would use all $2.6 million from the street reserve fund with $6 million more needed for improvements to 131st Ave. N.E. in preparation for the opening of the TRF project.
   But Councilwoman Barbara Solberg opposed creating the tax until the Capital Improvement Plan and Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plans are rolled out in January and specific projects are decided on. She said a utility tax wasn't a fix-all, do-all revenue source and cautioned her fellow councilmembers on hasty action. "It would be premature for us...to leap into something without knowing what we're imposing on the community," Solberg said. In answer to Saulness's citizen survey, Solberg said that regardless of traffic concerns, residents didn't want more taxes because of it.
   Deputy Mayor Don Brocha moved to table the discussion until Jan. 26 though Saulness attempted to ask his opinion on dedicating tax funds to a roads fund. City Clerk Sandra Steffler said the issue wasn't debatable at that moment. The council voted 4-1 to table with Saulness voting against. Councilmembers Lucy DeYoung and Marsha Engel were absent.