Two recent stories in the Herald show a significant relationship. The Whatcom Transportation Authority mentions that they are increasing the budget for improvements including new buses, while also mentioning that they are hoping for a continued infusion of funds from the city of Bellingham. The mayor then submits her two-year budget to the City Council with the information that the budget results in a small deficit.
The funds currently being distributed to the WTA by the city of Bellingham were voted upon by the voters of Bellingham as a Transportation Benefit District for the purpose of restoring Sunday service that was lost due to a decrease of sales tax revenue to WTA during the recession. The lost sales tax revenue has now been restored to WTA. I believe that the rationale for the use of transportation funds to maintain Sunday transit service does not now exist. I think that the WTA is quite obviously utilizing those extra city funds for their own purposes. If a need exists within WTA for additional funds, they should make the case and ask the voters directly for the added funds.
The funding currently being given to WTA should be retained within the city of Bellingham to cover some of the traffic expenditures included in the mayor’s budget, thus reducing the expected budget deficit. It is not appropriate that the city continue to shift tax revenues to WTA when the original reason no longer applies.