Ferndale council approves 1-cent gas tax measure for November ballot

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 8, 2014 

Ferndale gas tax

Kristen Dahl fills the 32-gallon tank of her Dodge Ram truck with diesel fuel in Ferndale March 17, 2005. Ferndale residents will have a chance to vote on a penny-per-gallon gas tax this November.

THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

FERNDALE — City residents will have a chance to vote on a penny-per-gallon gas tax this November, after Ferndale City Council approved a gas tax ballot measure at its meeting Monday, July 7.

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.

"My concern is this: How many times do you think you can go to a well before you have people just vote no, not because of the merits but because it's a tax?" Hansen asked.

Only a few people spoke out about the tax at the meeting, with one in support and one opposed. Resident Yvonne Goldsmith told the council she was against the tax and the burden it would place on gas station owners.

"Citizens are tired of having taxes raised, and I have a few concerns about how this is going to happen," she said.

Councilman Paul Ingram said that he was torn on the ballot measure. He said one of the most common questions he gets from residents is, "When are you going to fix my street?" If roads are an important enough issue to residents, then he thought they should get the chance to vote on whether to add a penny per gallon to pay for them.

"Why don't we let the people have a shot at it?" he asked. "If they say yes, then fine, that's what they want. If they say no, then that's what they want."

Goodrich said he could see the benefit of sending the ballot measure to voters, but he didn't support the tax itself. He'd prefer to see the city lower fees to attract developers and get more sales tax flowing into the city.

"I don't think taxing ourselves out of the situation with our roads is a good way to go," he said.

Councilwoman Cathy Watson said the need for road repairs was immediate, and she supported the gas tax as a way to pay for them.

"I'm not going to sit and wait for Costco to come to fix our roads," Watson said. "I hope the sales tax fairy comes someday, but I can't wait."

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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