LYNDEN - Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to increase the city's sales tax by 0.2 percent to pay for road work.
If it's approved by a simple majority, the sales tax would increase from 8.5 percent to 8.7 percent.
That means shoppers would, for example, pay an additional 20 cents on a $100 purchase.
If Lynden voters OK the measure, the city would join Bellingham and Ferndale in having the highest sales tax rates in Whatcom County.
City officials have said the additional dollars are needed to make up for lower sales tax revenue since 2007, before the recession.
Increasing the sales tax would generate an additional $300,000 a year to pay for projects in Lynden's six-year transportation plan that have been put on the back burner as city finances have tightened, according to Lynden officials.
"They're projects that have been in the plan for a while," Public Works Director Steve Banham said. "We really don't have the kind of money we need to do that work. It keeps getting pushed back because the money is not there."
The additional revenue would go to projects that include:
Repaving to preserve streets.
Constructing pedestrian trails and bridges.
Extending 17th Street to Main Street - giving traffic now winding through residential neighborhoods a more direct route to Main Street.
Rebuilding Third through Seventh streets in the downtown.
The added sales tax will be collected for up to 10 years unless voters extend it.
Supporters of the proposed sales tax increase said residents can pay now or pay more later.
"Eventually it's going to have to be done. It's better to keep them maintained rather than spending a great deal of money for major repairs down the line," said Kevin Pawlowski, co-owner of Farmers Equipment Co. in Lynden.
"Infrastructure is important to help sustain the community's economy and roads are part of that infrastructure," Pawlowski added.
Gary Vis, executive director of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce, said residents already are paying a higher sales tax rate as most of their shopping is now done outside of the city in Bellingham.
"They're paying that rate of tax currently on 70 percent of their consumables," said Vis, a supporter of the proposed measure.
"And it's targeted," Vis added. "It doesn't go into some general budget where it can be spent on any variety of things. This is targeted toward transportation needs within the Lynden community."
Supporters said the burden would be shared because shoppers coming from outside the community and driving over the city's roads also would pay the sales tax.
"That part spreads the burden out," Vis said.
The measure is on the same ballot as a $9.5 million bond for a new YMCA with a swimming pool in Delft Square - in a community known for being fiscally conservative.
The bond request will be voted on by residents within the Lynden Regional Park and Recreation District, which has the same boundaries as the Lynden School District. The sales tax increase request will be on the ballots of all city voters.
"We're a fiscally conservative town and one of the things conservative people do is take care of our assets," said Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis, adding that includes the 60 miles of streets in Lynden.
Korthuis listed some maintenance projects that the new revenue would pay for, such as $200,000 of chip sealing in the first year to catch up with the routine maintenance that helps extend the life of roads, before dropping back down to about $100,000 a year for such projects.
Street striping also has fallen off, but new dollars would allow the city to spend up to $40,000 a year, he said, as well as up to $40,000 a year for sidewalks, some of which have buckled and are a lawsuit liability for the city.
And the city also needs money it can provide as a match if federal grant dollars are available for arterial street upgrades, the mayor explained.
Pawlowski and Vis were among those who prepared the statement in support of the measure in the Whatcom County Voters' Pamphlet. No one submitted a statement against it.
Although supporters said they don't know of organized opposition to the proposed sales tax increase, they expressed some concern that having both the road proposition and the YMCA bond go before voters on Nov. 6 could hurt the chances of one, or both.
"I think you have to be in this economy. Regardless of the merits of the project, it's difficult to get tax measures put through," Pawlowski said. "I think it's more difficult for bond issues than it is for sales tax, but it's difficult any way you cut it."
Additional information about the proposed measure to increase Lynden's sales tax by 0.2 percent to pay for road repairs, and why Lynden officials and supporters feel it's needed, can be found in the Whatcom County Voters' Pamphlet or online at lyndenwa.org in the "Public Notices" section.
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.