Pullman city councilmembers discuss possible new tax

Bill would allow Pullman to collect portion of tax from within city limits



County commissioner Art Swannack discusses the impact of the affordable housing bond and how it will be put toward developing low income housing on Tuesday night at the Pullman City Hall.

BENJAMIN WHITE, Evergreen reporter

The Pullman City Council discussed the effect a tax regulation change might have on the county at the city council meeting on Tuesday.

County commissioner Art Swannack gave a presentation where he discussed House Bill 1406, which gives a portion of sales tax back to cities to work on improving affordable housing.

Swannack said the council has options on how they go about addressing the tax. One option is to let the county collect the tax, which would be about $115,000 more revenue per year.

Another option is to let the city of Pullman collect the portion of the tax that comes from within city limits, he said. This would give the city greater control of how the money is used.

He said if the city would like to have the money from the tax, they would need to put the tax on the ballot to let voters decide. If the county collects the tax it is guaranteed because it has already been passed by the state.

“That’s a choice for you guys, whether or not you believe you want to put something like that on the ballot,” said Swannack.

If the city were to pass its own tax, which qualified for the HB 1406, it would reduce the amount the county collects, he said. That amount would go from about $115,000 to $20,000. If passed, the difference would be collected by the city instead.

“The question would be whether the citizens would pass it,” Swannack said.

The county will most likely not create its own housing development department to manage this money, he said. Instead, they would likely allot it to the Community Action Center, which promotes affordable housing.

Mayor Glenn Johnson said crafting an agreement for how the county might use the money would make the city council feel more comfortable.

“If one governing body has this in place and already had met the reporting requirements, why would we take on additional reporting requirements just to split the same pot?” councilmember Dan Records said.

Late in the meeting Dan Records and Ann Parks discussed the strategic communications guidelines.

Records said there have been concerns lately about how the city has been communicating with residents.

The council needs to figure out how they can provide consistency in the way they provide information to the public, he said.

In the push for communicating with the public they discussed the new website the city is working on and the legal limits of what the councilmembers are allowed to talk about with residents.

Councilmember Brandon Chapman said having a more accessible website will help the city communicate with residents.

“Sometimes you need to dig for some information, but that’s typical for government entities, there’s a lot of information trying to get out,” Councilmember Nathan Weller said.

Chapman said he does not intend on legislating requirements for communication. There is a call from the community for improved transparency, he said, and as a councilmember he felt the need to address that.

The council also recognized seven Pullman Police officers by presenting them with awards for their recent accomplishments.

Gary Jenkins, Pullman chief of police, said the officers addressed three situations in which human lives were at risk. He said officers responded and because of their actions three deaths were likely prevented.