Snohomish County voters, in initial returns Tuesday, were narrowly favoring a measure to raise the sales tax by 0.3 percentage points for Community Transit.
Snohomish County voters were narrowly favoring a measure Tuesday that would result in the highest sales tax in the state, as a way to boost bus service in the high-growth county.
The “yes” vote was 50.9 percent, with thousands of ballots left to count later in the week.
“I know it’s really tight, but we had a good get-out-the-vote effort,” said Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, campaign manager for Community Transit Now. “We really focused on the future of the county, and what this means. People are frustrated with their commute.”
Proposition 1 called for raising the tax rate 0.3 percentage points, to bring the total sales tax to 9.8 percent in much of south Snohomish County. Seattle’s sales tax is 9.6 percent.
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When the recession hit last decade, Community Transit survived by slashing service, including ending Sunday runs. Some service already has been restored. Proposition 1 was designed to build on that, to transform lifestyle and housing patterns, by making public transit options abundant.
Campaigners heard frustration that park-and-ride lots fill, Gregerson said.
The measure was endorsed by at least 13 elected officials. Leading campaign funders were the Amalgamated Transit Union at $8,500, The Parsons Brinckerhoff engineering firm at $5,000, and two bus manufacturers each giving $25,000 — Gillig, which builds the spacious Swift buses, and Alexander Dennis, which makes the double-decker commuter buses. Total donations reached about $100,000, said Gregerson.
During the campaign, the opposition Citizens for Efficient Transit Spending, which reported no campaign contributions, argued that everyone pays taxes to subsidize the 3 percent who ride the agency’s buses, which are among the state’s most expensive to operate, at $168 per hour for local routes.
Normal growth in sales-tax income, estimated at 4.5 percent per year, ought to be enough, the group’s leader, Jeff Sherrer, said during the campaign. He was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.
New funding would support running at least two more Swift bus-rapid transit lines every 12 minutes, at new stations, to improve on sluggish local buses. The Swift 2 corridor would run from north Bothell to Mill Creek, McCollum Park, the Mariner area south of Everett, and Paine Field, in 2018. Swift 3 service would run east-west, from Edmonds to Lynnwood and Mill Creek, in 2023, the agency proposes. Both lines would intersect with the Swift 1 line on Highway 99.
Other buses would finally run on the neglected Highway 9 corridor, including Snohomish and Lake Stevens.
Community Transit’s proposition resembles a Seattle measure last year; voters approved a $60 car-tab fee and 0.1 percent sales tax for more frequent service from King County Metro Transit. Seattle’s follow-up Move Seattle property tax levy, which allocates $166 million of its $930 million for transit, was winning in Tuesday counts.
Snohomish County Proposition 1 would result in a 1.2 percent sales tax just for Community Transit, bringing the total sales tax to 9.8 percent in Edmonds, Mukilteo, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, and north Bothell, and 9.9 percent in Mill Creek.