Street Systems & Funding FAQs
Questions? Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions can be found below. Please note that this page will continue to be updated, as more questions arise and responses are clarified to provide better understanding.
If you have a question not listed here, you may wish to check other Street Funding Strategies pages or you may send your question to: email@example.com.
Street Systems, Programs and Projects
Q: Have there been audits or reviews of City of Vancouver streets programs and projects to make sure the City is being efficient and effective?
A: Yes. Large capital transportation projects with grant funding are subject to rigorous financial and project management audits. In addition, the City regularly conducts internal reviews of programs to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and is subject to annual fund reviews by the state Auditor's Office.
Street programs and projects have been the subject of even more analysis and evaluation in recent years. To better respond to Council's established goal of addressing long-term street funding, the following steps have been taken:
- An outside review of the City's street program outcomes and performance was commissioned and completed in 2013. Read the consultant's report online.
- A report that documented funding allocated to street-related activities, expenditures of funds and funding capacity was completed by the City in 2013. Read the Street Funding Report online.
- As a result of the outside review completed in 2013, the City has upgraded its technology to allow for a more rigorous analysis of pavement conditions, which will increase ability to manage this asset and predict future needs.
Q: What is the City's total baseline funding for street systems in 2015-2016, and how does that break down?
A: The City's 2015-16 two-year budget includes revenues of approximately $44.3 million, or 22.2 million annually, for baseline street funding. Annual expenses include pavement management (approx. $6.8 million), operations and maintenance (approx. $10.7 million), and debt service (approx. $4.9 million) to pay bonds used to complete previous transportation projects. Capital projects vary by year, and have relied heavily on grants for funding. There is no identified funding for capital projects going forward beyond the projects already underway. Any capital project work remaining will be put on hold once that funding is exhausted.
Q: What are the City's sources for baseline street system funding?
A: For 2015-2016 budget, the funding sources break down as follows:
- $13.7 million from the general fund - from property tax, sales tax, utility taxes, etc.
- $3.5 million from state gas tax
- $2.3 million from the business license surcharge
- $2.2 million from the real estate excise tax
- $1.1 million from other miscellaneous sources that vary year to year
Q: Can you provide an example of all of these costs and revenues for 2014?
A: Yes! Please see the attached.
Q: Where are future street system (transportation) projects/improvements listed?
A: The City's six-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) identifies transportation-related projects, including planning studies and street, bicycle, pedestrian and traffic signal improvements. The TIP is adopted annually by the City Council and is available online.
Q: Are bicycle and pedestrian facilities part of the street system?
A: Yes. Everything between the inside sidewalk lines is considered part of the street system. That includes sidewalks and bike lanes, as well as street lights, signals and more. The City or a development typically build the sidewalks, though it is the adjacent property owners responsibility to maintain them.
Street System Funding Recommendations
Q: What is the current business license surcharge?
A: The current business license surcharge is currently $50 per employee, capped at 400 employees. Businesses with average annual gross receipts of less than $12,000 are exempt.
Q: How much does the City currently receive from the business license surcharge?
A: For the 2015-2016 budget, the City anticipates receiving about $2.3 million annually.
Q: What other cities have added license tab fees to support transportation/street systems?
A: RCW 36.73.020(leg.wa.gov) allows a city or county government to create a transportation benefit district (TBD) and impose an additional vehicle registration fee to fund local transportation projects.The state Department of Licensing website lists the locations and related fee amounts where this has been approved.
Q: If approved, would a vehicle license fee apply to just cars? Or would it also apply to other vehicles, such as motorcycles and campers?
A: That information can be found here on the Department of Licensing website. Vehicles subject to fees include but are not limited to: passenger vehicles, trucks that weight 6,000 pounds or less, motorcycles, tow trucks, taxicabs, private use trailers more 2,000 pounds, and travel trailers. Vehicles exempt from these license tab fees can be found here in RCW 82.80.140. Exemptions include but are not limited to: campers, off-road vehicles, mopeds, personal use trailers with a single axle and weighting less than 2,000 pounds, government vehicles, private school vehicles and vehicles properly registered to disabled American veterans.
Q: Why doesn't the City raise the gas tax to help fund streets?
A. Cities in Washington do not have the option of a local gas tax.
Q: How much of the gas tax paid at the pumps here goes to the City?
A: For the 2015-2106 budget, the City had anticipated receiving $3.5 million annually from the motor vehicle fuel tax (gas tax). Those funds currently are part of the baseline funding for the City's streets. The 2015 Washington Legislature has approved an increase in gas taxes. The City's estimated share of the increase would go to funding streets under the Commission's recommendation.
Q: Could the City adopt a street fee like some Oregon cities have or a mileage charge, as some Oregon cities are considering?
A: Those funding options are not available to Washington cities.
Q: If new revenues are approved, would these be dedicated to streets? Or would new revenues replace current funding and the current funding be shifted elsewhere?
A: The City Council has discussed guiding principles for new street revenue if approved. These include 1) a focus on transparency, accountability and predictability; 2) use of any new revenue to supplement, not supplant existing funds; 3) use of debt service funds on streets, as past street project debts are retired; 4) payment equity; and 5) 'proof' period to provide for a review of funding and projects.
Q: Can't we just use grants to help fund street maintenance and improvements?
A: Pavement preservation projects are typically not eligible for grants. The City has a history of successfully obtaining grants to assist with capital projects, which include upgrades to major core arterial streets. However, there is almost always a requirement that the City provide some funds to match or accompany the grant dollars. Historically, the City has been able to leverage $3 of grant funds with $1 of local money. The outlook beyond the currently funded projects does not project any local matching funding, making it extremely difficult for Vancouver to be competitive for getting grants. The possible funding scenarios of an additional $8 million and $14 million annually take into account the use of grants to help improve our streets.
Other Street System Funding Options for Washington Cities
Q: The public input online tool showed four potential funding tools -- vehicle license fee, business license surcharge, property tax and sales tax. Why those four options?
A: The four shown in the online tool, as noted on the website, represented general categories commonly utilized by Washington cities to fund streets.There are various combinations of options available to Washington cities that could be and have been considered. However, the possibilities were simply too large to fit within the formats provided by the online tool and public outreach presentations that took place from about May through September 2015. The possible levels or increments for those four options were also intended to give citizens and businesses a starting point for this important discussion. The input tool and presentation polling were not meant to be scientifically accurate surveys or the final decision on what goes forward, but rather, offer a means of giving input that can help inform future decisions. The Commission on Streets Funding considered all options and ultimately, after much deliberation, recommended funding through new vehicle license fees, increased business license surcharge and increase in the tax on City-owned utilities.
Q: Where do my property taxes go?
A. You can view a good explanation with handy charts on the City's website here. Information specific to your home or business can be found on the Clark County Treasurer's Office website.
Q: How much would a 10 cent increase in property tax for streets add to my annual property tax bill?
A: A 10 cent or $0.10 increase would cost $20 more a year for property taxes on a home assessed at $200,000. However, please note that the Commission has recommended the Council not proceed at this time with a voted measure, but rather directly address taking care of the streets we have.
Q: What is the sales tax rate within the City of Vancouver? How does that compare with other cities in Washington?
A: The sales tax rate charged within the City of Vancouver is 8.4 percent. To compare with other locations, you can view the most recent state Department of Revenue table of local and state sales tax and use rates by city and county,
Q: If the voters passed a sales tax increase of 0.1 percent, making Vancouver's sales tax 8.5 percent, how much additionally would I pay on an item that cost $100?
A: An additional 10 cents. However, please note that the Commission has recommended the Council not proceed at this time with a voted measure, but rather directly address taking care of the streets we have.