Tax measure on the table in Elma

After two-plus years of virtual meetings, the Elma City Council met in-person on Monday evening, April 25, for their monthly work session to discuss implementing a Transportation Improvement District measure.

The meeting was held at the FaithLife Church Northwest building while renovations are still being completed at the city hall building. Mayor Jim Sorensen and City Councilman Mike Cooper could not attend the meeting because of personal matters.

The discussion centered around the council’s idea of putting together a district tax increase measure to support local infrastructure throughout the city of Elma primarily through repairing roadways and sidewalks, as well as storm drains among other need.

“We’re hard pressed trying to fix our infrastructure here with the funds that we have.” Councilman John Heater stated during the discussion.

The current proposal, which was led by Councilman Josh Collette and discussed for the first time openly among the council, is to either implement a $50 license tab fee for Elma residents or to increase the sales tax rate by as much as 0.2 percent for the city of Elma. The council was quick to shoot down the idea of pitching their measure on the back of the license tab fee, but seemed to agree with the idea of the sales tax increase.

“I think we can all see the benefit of it, but we need to articulate the benefit of creating the district and not allow the noise to distract from it.” Collette explained.

While the district measure is only in the discussion phase at this time, if enacted on a ballot by the voters in November, it would spring forward Elma from being one of the lowest sales tax rate cities in Grays Harbor at 8.9 percent to one of the highest in the county at 9.1 percent along with Ocean Shores and Hoquiam.

The measure would create a 10-year program, but the understanding among the council is that it can be revisited on a yearly basis.

The council says that with the city building revenue yearly with sales tax and the developing growth of Eagles Landing, it would provide Elma with the adequate funds to keep things in working order.

“I just don’t see any other way, we got to start somewhere,” conceded councilwoman Bethany Whipple-Boling. “As much as we don’t like to tax the people, at least this bears less of a burden on our community members.”

The council plans to provide a strategy to potential voters that shows exactly how the money collected from the tax increase would be allocated. For those interested in following along with the council’s plan for the Transportation Improvement District measure, there will be a city council meeting in-person at city hall on May 2 at 6 p.m.