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Will county voters back car fee?

Online survey will guide decision on $22 car registration fee


Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck is convinced the county needs to raise additional revenue to pay for road maintenance.

To bring in the funds, he is leaning toward a $22 motor vehicle registration fee, but Duyck is not yet sure whether the public will need to vote on it.

“It is very fair to say that I am convinced of the need. However, I think our outreach efforts will let us know if the public thinks this is a wise investment before we take any action,” said Duyck.Duyck

According to Duyck, county voters have been supportive of road maintenance funding measures in the past. He believes citizens appreciate the benefits of a well-maintained road system, but wants to get a better feel for their current attitudes.

The outreach efforts will include a scientific poll conducted by DHM Research and an online survey through Westside Voices, which is available to residents through the county’s website. The results are scheduled to be presented to the Washington County Coordinating Committee at its September meeting.

The committee includes representatives of all governmental jurisdictions within the county, and helps coordinate transportation spending. After receiving the results of the survey, the committee is expected to make a recommendation on whether to enact the fee.

State law allows the commission to enact a motor vehicle fee of up to $43 — the current state fee — without a public vote. The county’s existing computer system would also allow a fee of $22 to be enacted. Duyck said he supports the lower amount, saying it would allow the county to maintain its existing road system for 20 years.

According to Duyck, the need for additional road maintenance revenue is obvious. He pointed out that the state gas tax, which pays for much of the county’s road maintenance projects, is not generating enough money to meet all the needs.

“While the jury is still out on a final decision, I think the bigger question is whether or not there is a need for additional maintenance funding. My personal view is that the numbers speak for themselves,” explained Duyck. “We are driving just as much, but the gas tax dollars are not keeping pace.”

According to Washington County transportation officials, the county is already $10.5 million short of being able to meet its road maintenance needs in this year’s budget. Although the need is projected at $33.5 million, the county is only expecting to receive $23 million from traditional funding sources. That gap is projected to double to approximately $21 million within 10 years because revenues — primarily from the state gas tax — are only expected to grow about 2 percent or 3 percent a year, while maintenance costs are projected to increase in the range of 5 to 8 percent.

“Washington County takes its responsibility to maintain roads very seriously, and deals with problems before they become unmanageable,” Duck said. “The reward for this is economic development unparalleled anywhere else in our state. All of that being said, we need to be careful not to raise money just for the sake of raising it.”

The issue was discussed by the Washington County Coordinating Committee meeting at its June and July meetings. The current proposal would dedicate the funds to road maintenance for the next 20 years. They would be split, with 60 percent going to the county and 40 percent going to the local cities.

At the most recent session, Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington echoed the belief that gas tax revenues are not keeping pace with inflation.

“Every revenue source should be considered,” said Harrington.

Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey said members of the Hillsboro City Council believe the County Commissioners should simply enact the fee, while Tualatan City Council President Monique Beikman said her colleagues want a public vote.

Representatives from other governmental jurisdictions did not offer opinions on the need for a public vote.

You can sign up for the Westside Voices surveys at: joinwestsidevoices.org.




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