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Washington County considers ending development tax discount

Board hearing planned in August; some see confusion with vehicle fee


Washington County’s Board of Commissioners unanimously decided Tuesday to move forward with an amendment to remove a 20 discount on transportation taxes for building developers. (Commissioner Dick Schouten was absent for the vote).

A public hearing on the transportation development tax is scheduled for Aug. 5. If the process moves forward, the discount would end in late September, said county land-use spokesman Stephen Roberts. “If development activity stays the same, the net effect would be an increase of 20 percent.” Development billed $16 million in the last fiscal year; an additional 20 percent would reap $3.2 million more, he said.

Voters adopted the development tax in November 2008. Since July 1, 2009, it has helped fund transportation facilities around the county, including within cities. Later in 2009, in response to worsening economic conditions, the board implemented a temporary discount on the tax, to be reviewed annually in July.

During Tuesday's session, Commissioner Greg Malinowski (District 2) expressed concern about having the development tax discounts take effect later in the year, close to a vehicle registration fee that will be on the November ballot.

“We’ll have this in effect before the ballots drop?” Malinowski asked. “Otherwise it might muck it up.”

He suggested that there might be voter confusion about two different fees to maintain or replace roads — one for building developers, another for Washington County car owners.

Other commissioners disagreed. Chair Andy Duyck said, “Fall is the end of construction season and the timing is aligned with that.”

If the timing of the development tax discount were changed because of concerns about voter reaction, Duyck said, “Some will think it’s just political gamesmanship.”