With the proposal of a new tax on vehicles registered in the city, Powell is signaling a move toward alternative methods of funding infrastructure improvements -- and the unlikelihood of another attempt at a tax increase on the November ballot.
At its July 2 meeting, Powell City Council was set to hear the first reading of a new ordinance that would place a $5 tax on vehicles registered in Powell.
City spokeswoman Megan Canavan said the tax is estimated to raise $62,000 per year and affect 12,500 registered vehicles.
The ordinance allows the funding to be used for "public roads, highways, and bridges; costs associated with street and traffic signs; debt service obligations; and costs for similar purposes," but Canavan said the money would be "earmarked for road maintenance."
With those funds headed toward infrastructure work, the new tax will serve as something of a stopgap measure to partially fund long-delayed road and infrastructure repairs in the city.
City Council placed an issue on the November 2018 ballot that would have generated $20 million over 10 years by raising the city's income tax from 0.75 percent to 1.15 percent while increasing the tax credit from 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent for residents who live in Powell but work in and pay income taxes to another municipality.
The decision came on the recommendation of Powell's Citizen Financial Review Task Force, which worked for months to determine the best way to generate funds for infrastructure work throughout the city.
Voters did not respond well to the issue, however, and rejected it with 59 percent of the vote.
In the spring, the Powell Community Improvement Corp. conducted surveys and other research on the viability of placing another issue on the ballot this year. The group continues to organize and respond to that input, Canavan said.
"The CIC, which oversees a lot of economic development for the community, received those results and has been looking over those as a committee with a couple of the City Council members that are represented on that committee," she said.
With that research in mind, Canavan said there are "no plans for anything to be on the fall 2019 ballot."
Councilman Brian Lorenz sits on the CIC board. He said he "wasn't surprised by the feedback" the group gained.
He said he believes Powell residents are willing to provide the funding but only from the right type of ballot issue.
"I heard a lot about (the fall ballot issue) being inequitable and unfair and confusing," he said. "The people who were polled in the survey definitely want traffic improved, and the way we improve traffic is by having funds to implement programs fully like Keep Powell Moving. ... So there's that direct correlation."
Nothing is decided, Lorenz said, but at this point it seems unlikely that a ballot issue to fund those improvements will come this year.
"We probably need to go back to the residents sooner than later at this point, but I don't think there's enough time (this year)," he said. "We're less than 40 days before something's got to be put on the ballot."
In the meantime, Lorenz said, finding ways to increase funding slightly -- such as the vehicle tax -- makes sense.
When a decision is made, he said it will be key to be unified.
"I want to make sure no matter what we do, we get it right and have all of council supporting it," he said. "I'm open to any and all options.
"We've got to be creative in the way that we approach raising funds and it's got to be fair and equitable to our residents. It's got to make sense."