Issaquah City Council expected to approve sales tax increase

Revenue would primarily go toward transportation and related infrastructure.

A proposed sales tax increase in Issaquah is expected to benefit local transportation and related infrastructure.

The proposal calls for a 0.1% increase under a Transportation Benefit District sales tax (TBD). If the proposal is adopted, the projected revenue would reach $2.2 million in the first year.

This sales tax adoption will be decided by the Issaquah City Council, rather than voter approval. According to the Department of Revenue, as of January 2022, a jurisdiction can impose no more than a 0.1% sales tax increase with approval by a commission, district or city council.

If adopted, the sales tax within Issaquah would climb to 10.2%.

The sales tax will ensure the increase does not fall solely on residents, said Deputy City Administrator Andrea Snyder.

“What we understand is that [Issaquah] is a regional hub. That means we have a lot of people passing through as they shop and then go on to their final destination,” Snyder said. “A sales tax is the best way to get them to contribute to help pay for the streets they use.”

The TBD sales tax will go toward the fleet of projects surrounding transportation in Issaquah’s 2022-2027 Capital Improvement Plan.

Specifically, the revenue would go toward updating software and hardware used in traffic lights and motion detectors, which are 20 to 30 years old, Snyder said. The money will also help improve accident response times and pedestrian and bike safety.

“We’ve heard a lot from the community about the bike and path infrastructure on Northwest Sammamish Road,” Snyder said. “A sidewalk is planned for that area.”

Within the outreach plan, the city administration has outlined a plan of action that presents opportunities for residents to provide feedback and learn more about the proposed sales tax.

The potential adoption will take place on Dec. 4, 2023.

Issaquah’s community survey in 2021 showed dissatisfaction with transportation and infrastructure. When asked what should receive the most emphasis from leaders in the following two years, 55% of residents said traffic flow and congestion management; 31.2% said land use, planning and zoning, and 29.8% said maintenance of city streets, sidewalks and infrastructure.

These findings have stayed consistent in the 2023 community survey.

In 2021, Mayor Mary Lou Pauly assembled a Community Finance Capital Task Force consisting of community members on and off the advisory board. These members helped guide the infrastructure plan, which is updated bi-annually.

“We asked [the task force], given what you see in our budget, what you see in our plans and what our needs are, what should we do?” Snyder said.

After six months, the task force concluded the city did not have existing revenue for these significant needs, Snyder said. One solution was to raise the sales tax.

The adoption of this proposal would lapse after 10 years with the potential for reapproval, according to the Transportation Benefit District Sales Tax Outreach Plan.