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Washougal proposes new vehicle license tab fee for 2019

Residents could pay $20 ‘user fee’ to help city improve transportation

WASHOUGAL — Members of the Washougal City Council will soon decide whether to adopt an annual $20 vehicle license tab fee as part of their proposed budget.

If enacted, the fee would generate approximately $171,000 in revenue for 2019. As the language currently stands, all funds collected through the fee would have to be allocated to build a major projects fund for transportation.

Washougal City Council members will soon decide whether or not to enact a $20 vehicle license tab fee for residents. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Washougal City Council members will soon decide whether or not to enact a $20 vehicle license tab fee for residents. Photo by Jacob Granneman

The council could still supplant funding from the general budget to use in place of the funds generated by the license tab fee, however, a consensus on that course of action has yet to be reached.  

Some on council see the fee as an opportunity to improve transportation infrastructure throughout Washougal.

“We should view it as a user fee,” said Paul Greenlee, a council member in Washougal. “People who drive on the streets, frankly, tear them up, and we need to maintain them. So, smart money says, ‘Maintain your streets.’”

Currently in Washington, 97 cities already impose a similar license tab fee, sales tax or a combination of each. Fifty six Washington cities impose a tab fee ranging from $10 to $40, while 37 cities use a sales tax, ranging from 0.10 to 0.20 percent.

Vehicle license tab fees are always created by the city’s council in Washington, also referred to as a councilmanic process. Cities with sales tax arrived via an open vote.

If enacted, Washougal’s proposed $20 vehicle license tab fee would help create a project fund for transportation related endeavours. Photo by Jacob Granneman
If enacted, Washougal’s proposed $20 vehicle license tab fee would help create a project fund for transportation related endeavours. Photo by Jacob Granneman

The local cities of Battle Ground, Kelso and Longview enforce $20 license tab fees, with Kalama and Vancouver enforcing $40 fees.

“I think it is basically a use tax, where we are utilizing funds that we receive, for the city to do road maintenance and repair work,” said Molly Coston, mayor of Washougal. “My elected perspective as mayor is that we’re going to have to do something to make that happen, and the vehicle tab fee is one mechanism.”

Every two years, the city conducts a community survey. In recent years, the most prominent complaint and request for action has been regarding roads and maintenance, said Coston.

If the tab fee is passed, the council will also be re-allocating funding to hire a new Code Enforcement Officer, which is presently one of their top operational priorities.

To learn more about the proposed vehicle license tab fee, visit the city website or the take a look at city’s full release of their 2018 community survey.  

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from northern Clark County. He is a recent graduate of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College, where he studied media production. His passions range from cinematography, to meeting new folks, to going on adventures in the rugged Pacific Northwest. He lives with his wife in Vancouver, WA.

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