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Monorail board keeps car-tab rate; some motorists will pay more tax
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seattle Monorail Project's car-tab tax will remain at its present rate through August, even though some motorists will wind up paying more times than others.
Board members know the move is controversial, but a 5-2 majority said it will enable them to retire the current $89 million debt sooner and close a troubled chapter in the city's history.
The annual tax is $140 per $10,000 of vehicle value on used cars. Motorists with June, July and August tabs will make a fourth payment to wipe the debt clean, while the majority with September through May tabs will wind up paying only three times. Monorail taxes began in June 2003.
The board could have cut the rate for everyone to $30 effective June 1 until May 31, 2007 — spreading the payments equally — but that would have added a half-million dollars in interest and overhead costs.
Jim Nobles, Paul Toliver, Steve Williamson, Peter Goddu and chair Beth Goldberg voted to keep existing rates. Vlad Oustimovitch and Don Covey backed a lower rate over 12 months.
The public wants the debt paid off as soon as possible and would resent prolonging it, said Nobles, an anti-monorail candidate who was swept into office as voters canceled the monorail last fall.
Replied Covey, a new board member: "There will be a lot of resentment when people who pay it those three months in the summer realize that others get off scot-free."
In addition to a few more months of tax income, the agency also will use proceeds from leftover land sales to pay the debt.
The board did not release figures Thursday night showing how much money bidders offered in last week's sell-off of 33 of its 34 unused properties, but the August timeline suggests that land proceeds will be close to the $62 million originally paid, or perhaps a bit higher.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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