TBA on TBD? Council to hold public hearing on transportation benefit districts

  • Thursday, November 7, 2019 1:31pm
  • News

Auburn’s leaders are weighing a 2015 change in state law that allows cities with transportation benefit districts to assume their powers, rights and functions as long as the city and the district have the same boundaries.

On Monday, the Auburn City Council agreed to hold a public hearing to assess the public vibe.

What it did not do was say when the hearing would be.

If the city decides to proceed after the public hearing, it must pass an ordinance and change the relevant chapter of the city code. There is no requirement that the TBD take formal action to make it happen.

State lawmakers called TBDs into existence as independent taxing districts solely to build, improve, provide and fund transportation improvements within their boundaries, which must be those of a city. Each TBD is composed entirely of city council members, but they are in every way separate legal and financial creatures from cities.

In 2011, the city of Auburn created its own TBD.

Here’s what’s would change.

• The TBD would cease to exist as a separate legal and financial entity;

• TBD and council meetings would no longer be separate;

• Financial reporting would be incorporated into the city’s annual report; and

• The issuance of debt for projects would be limited to the city’s existing. unused debt capacity, although neither the city nor the TBD has the funding capacity to leverage the full debt capacity that the law allows.

For years, many of Auburn’s residents probably didn’t even know that the city had a TBD. But that changed after Dec. 13, 2016, when Auburn’s panel, taking note of a shortage of money to fund city transportation projects, approved a resolution that green-lighted an annual $20 vehicle license fee for qualifying vehicles in the district.

The public outcry was too loud to ignore.

On Sept. 19, 2017, Auburn’s TBD suspended the resolution. To date, the board has never imposed a single vehicle license fee.

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