Last year the voters of Ferndale overwhelming rejected a massive tax increase for new capital projects for public schools. The voters did approve to tax themselves for a new library in 2012 and to increase their sales tax for road improvements through a special taxing mechanism called, Transportation Benefit District. Special Tax Districts allow people and political leaders to cherry pick what are the most favorable areas to ask voters to approve establishment of a new special tax district with taxing authority.
Why is that a problem? Well, they do not apply a ceiling to the amount of taxes that accumulate, elected officials can legislatively move money from one special fund into another based on their legislative authority, as was recently done by the Whatcom County Council when they set up a Parks Special Revenue fund with tax dollars taken from the Conservation Futures Funds (funds which the voters of Whatcom County approved specifically for the purchase of private land for public use), and they are often the vehicle used to incrementally expand their ability to tax as they broaden the taxing district boundaries, using the same type of selective cherry-picking for voters to vote to approve their inclusion within the special taxing district. It’s the slow, drip-drip-drip of taxation and regulatory encroachment that now requires you to get a permit before you can legally put up a fence post. It’s one more agency you have to deal with to get approval to build a home or business.
Transportation Benefit Districts are quasi-municipal corporations with independent taxing authority, including the authority to impose property taxes and impact fees for transportation purposes. RCW 36.73.020 governs formation by counties, and RCW 35.21.225 governs formation by cities.
Now it seems that the Ferndale City Council not only wishes to increase the amount of taxes they collect for gas, but are seriously considering adding another special taxing district in the form of a Metropolitan Parks District.
Formation of Metropolitan Park District
A metropolitan park district may include territory in portions or in all of one or more cities or counties, or in one or more cities and counties, when created or enlarged. There are two ways to initiate the formation of a park district: by petition and by a resolution of the governing body or bodies within which the district is to be located. (RCW 35.61.020)
Local Government Resolution Method
A city or county may initiate district formation by adopting a resolution submitting a proposition for its formation to voters within the proposed district boundaries. If the district includes area within the county or other cities and counties, the legislative body of each city and/or county that includes a portion or all of the area in the district must adopt a resolution submitting the proposition to the voters.
With increasing pressure to stop growth in the Cherry Point Industrial area, a strong push from the enviro-groups to actually cut the amount of industrial land available for development in the County, increased risks in maintaining access to permits for private wells, and all the unknown outcomes over our water issues, why should Ferndale voters or any County voters seek to burden themselves to pay more taxes with such uncertainties?
~ Kris Halterman
After considering bringing the gas tax to voters several times over the past few years, council passed the ballot measure 4-3, with Carol Bersch, Brent Goodrich and Mel Hansen opposed.
The ballot measure calls for a 1-cent tax for each gallon of fuel sold in city limits. The measure includes an exemption for the first 60,000 gallons of gas sold each month at each station.
Money generated would go to road projects and repairs in the city.
Last year, Ferndale voters approved a $550,000 bond to help build a new library, and in 2012 they approved a 10-year, 0.2 percent sales tax increase for the city’s Transportation Benefit District that pays for road repairs. With the council also looking at forming a metropolitan parks district that would be able to tax residents to pay for parks and trails, Councilman Hansen thought voters might get burned out on tax increases. Click here to read more.