Voters asked to fund transportation system, criminal justice

Tonasket asks small increase in sales tax

OKANOGAN – Okanogan County voters are being asked to fund a transportation district through a special sales and use tax levy; while Tonasket residents are asked to OK a levy to help pay for criminal justice costs.

The transportation ballot measure, Special Elections – Proposition 1, proposes giving the Okanogan County Transit Authority (OCTA) the ability to impose a four-tenths of one percent tax on all taxable purchases made within the county. The tax is the equivalent of four cents on every $10 of taxable purchases made. The money will fund “the operation, maintenance equipment and facilities for a public transportation district within the boundaries of the Transit Authority.”

The OCTA includes Okanogan County except the southeastern precincts and the town of Nespelem.

While the City of Oroville recently agreed to increase funding to the County Nutrition and Transportation System, Tonasket decided to remain at the same funding levels. The Tonasket Council has been vocal about their reservations about the amount of the tax being asked to fund the OCTA, especially at a time when they are seeking a 0.1 sales tax increase to help them with their own needs within the city limits.

Voters in the City of Tonasket will be asked to decide whether or not to impose an increase of 0.1 percent added to the sales and use tax.

One-third of the collected increase in funds would be used for public safety, as required by law.

Two-thirds of the collected increase in funds would be used in the General Fund, such as police and fire protection, parks, the Tonasket Airport, the youth center.

Like the state sales tax, edible items are not taxed and utility tax rates would be unaffected.

The Tonasket City Council voted several months ago to put this proposition on the ballot to help deal with chronic budget shortfalls caused by a combination of rising costs and stagnant to falling sales tax income.

In discussions about the tax – and included in information on a recent information sheet sent out in the city’s utility bills – the intent is to use the funds to help pay for law enforcement costs, such as jail and booking fees and dispatch fees.

If passed, 85 percent of the increased funds will go to the City of Tonasket, while 15 percent will go to Okanogan County. By contrast, a county-wide increase would see the city collect 40 percent of the increase, with 60 percent going to the county

If passed, the new rate would take effect Apr. 1, 2014.