LYNDEN - Lynden's sales tax likely will go up next year to pay for street projects, but a $9.5 million bond to renovate the Delft Square building downtown to house a new YMCA failed, according to early election results Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The two-tenth of 1 percent street sales tax was passing with more than 54 percent approval Tuesday. The next ballot count will be released at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
If that lead holds, the sales tax will increase from 8.5 percent to 8.7 percent, which means shoppers would pay an additional 20 cents on a $100 purchase. The additional sales tax is expected to raise about $300,000 per year for street projects that have gone ignored during the past few years of tighter budgets.
"I'm pleased that the citizens of Lynden recognized the asset they have in their streets and want to maintain them," said Mayor Scott Korthuis. "We're committed to maintaining the streets as they desire."
The property tax to support the new YMCA did not pass, though, with more than 62 percent of voters rejecting the bond.
The 30-year bond would've been paid for through property taxes on residents of the Lynden Regional Park and Recreation District, which shares the same boundaries as the Lynden School District. With an estimated tax of about 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, the owner of a house valued at $279,000 would've had to pay nearly $80 more per year.
The current YMCA building, at 100 Drayton St., is owned and maintained by the city, and it has extensive problems, said Gary Vis, executive director of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce. Those problems include mold, an undersized gymnasium, a needed locker room remodel, an inadequate air conditioning system and problems with the swimming pool.
The bond would have paid to move the YMCA into a renovated Delft Square, located at the corner of Fifth and Front streets. That building has been empty since it was damaged in a fire in 2008.
Vis was disappointed that the bond wasn't passing and wasn't sure what would happen next for the YMCA.
"There will be some conversations about what we are going to do," he said. "There will be a lot of questions in the next couple weeks."
The city will have to figure out what to do with the current YMCA facility, "which is definitely showing wear and tear," Korthuis said. The future of Delft Square is also unclear.
"I guess I was hoping this would begin to revitalize that section of downtown," he said. "But the people have spoken, so now we'll let the private sector carry it from here."
Vis was happy, though, to see that the voters were approving the street sales tax.
"That's a good thing. It's an infrastructure need," he said. "It'll be a benefit to the citizens."
Having two potential taxes on the ballot at the same time in a city that tends toward frugality may have made the YMCA bond a more difficult sell, but Vis couldn't say for sure.
"We hoped all along that people would look at them as two separate issues," he said. "Whether they did or not, I don't know."