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Tigard City Council looking at fuel tax increase

Five-cent increase proposed to raise $1M for transportation projects.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Tigard Mayor John L. Cook drives through a ceremonial ribbon in a city-owned vehicle in 2013.Voters in Tigard this fall will likely be asked to approve an increase to the city's tax on motor vehicle fuel sales.

The Tigard City Council discussed a proposed ballot measure Tuesday that would more than double the city's per-gallon tax, increasing it from 3 cents to 8 cents. The revenue would be dedicated to transportation projects, with the mayor and councilors suggesting half of the money raised by the 5-cent increase be earmarked for road maintenance.

Councilor Marland Henderson noted that deferred maintenance projects for city streets have been piling up this decade.

“It's always concerning to me that if we don't keep our streets in top condition, it's going to cost us more money in the long run,” he said.

“The first $500,000 needs to hit that backlog,” Mayor John L. Cook agreed.

If voters approve the fuel tax increase, it would replace a planned increase in the street maintenance fee the city assesses in its water and sewer billing, according to Tigard's deputy finance director, Cara Fitzpatrick. That fee is budgeted to increase by 24 percent for residential customers and 16 percent for non-residential customers, she told the council.

An increase of 5 cents per gallon on fuel sales in Tigard is projected to raise an additional $1 million over the course of a year, Fitzpatrick said. The street maintenance fee increase would raise about half that.

"In addition, the increased revenues (from the fuel tax) could help support major capital transportation projects and pedestrian connections inside the right-of-way," the City Council agenda's summary of the proposal noted.

But the three council members present at Tuesday's meeting agreed they want to be sure that at least $500,000 goes toward road maintenance. Cook said the city has built up approximately an $11 million backlog of roads that need to be essentially rebuilt, with the goal of addressing each over about a 20-year timeframe.

“We need to fix the worst streets, because that's (what) is going to cost us most,” Henderson said at the meeting.

Cook suggested the council pass a resolution directing the city's budget committee to put at least $500,000 toward pavement management. Henderson and Councilor Marc Woodard approved of that idea.

Cook directed city staff to bring back ballot language at the council's July 26 meeting for a public hearing. If the council votes to refer the measure to voters at that point, it will appear on the November ballot.

If voters approve the fuel tax increase, Cook said, the council will repeal the scheduled street maintenance fee hike. If the tax increase is not approved, the fee increase will take effect Jan. 1.

By Mark Miller
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