Bainbridge council OKs transportation benefit district

The Bainbridge Island City Council approved the formation of a transportation benefit district Wednesday, a first step on the path to eventually adopt a car tab fee that will help pay for road projects on the island.

The vote was unanimous.

Despite the arrival of “Vote No! No New Taxes$$” signs in several spots around the island, the public hearing before the vote did not draw much of a crowd.

Three islanders spoke out; one was enthusiastic about the car fee while the other two, who were car collectors, weren’t.

“I don’t agree with the $20 car tab thing,” said David Monsaas, who said he owned a range of collectable cars, trailers and a motorcycle.

All the vehicles would add up to a hefty sum of vehicle excise taxes, he said.

“Even with the collectable cars, I get maybe 1,500 miles a year driving them on the street,” he said. “I don’t mind paying 20 bucks, but not for every vehicle. The $20 fee on everything is totally unfair for a person like me.”

After the short hearing, the council approved the formation of the district, which places the city council as the board in charge of the district. Council members acting as district officials will have to set up meetings and take other administrative steps before any possible vehicle tax can be considered.

When approved, the fee will be collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles as islanders register their cars and trucks. The money raised through the new tax will pay for road projects. The city estimates that the new car tab fee could bring in more than $330,000 each year, and the estimate is based on the more than 18,000 vehicles registered on Bainbridge Island.

The state Department of Licensing would take a 1-percent cut of the revenues for processing the fee.

The idea of forming a transportation benefit district has been flirted with before by previous councils, though Councilwoman Anne Blair has spearheaded the recent movement on the issue.

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