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Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Vehicle License Fee

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about the proposed Richland Transportation Benefit District's $20 Vehicle License Fee. Additional answers and new information will be added as they become available. **This information has been updated in the summer of 2017 to reflect acquisition of additional grant funds by the City **

Q: Why is the City of Richland implementing a $20 TBD fee on my vehicle license renewal?

A: To provide the last increment of funding needed to complete the Duportail Bridge and to improve the City’s street resurfacing program.

Q: Why are we just recently hearing about this car tab fee?

A: The City has been transparent about funding needs for both programs. Staff identified the TBD as a funding strategy in as early as 2013. While it was included in annual budgets, the CIP, discussed in council meetings, and sub-committee meetings, significant public outreach was initiated once all efforts to obtain external funds were exhausted and the needs for local funding were solidified.  The City made a significant effort to be visible with the plan by launching outreach through the Tri-City Herald, interviews with local news outlets, and by publishing materials to our social media and City website.

Q: Why is the City implementing a $20 fee and not a reduced amount like $10?

A: Twenty dollars is recommended to fund both the Pavement Preservation Program as well as to complete the Duportail Bridge. The condition of our street infrastructure continues to decline and we are unable to maintain the level of preservation that has been prioritized by our citizens, staff and council.  At $10 the City could fund the completion of the Duportail bridge, but would only be able to contribute an additional $310,000/year towards pavement preservation.

Q:  Can you be more specific regarding pavement preservation? 

A: Please visit our Pavement Preservation page for more information about Richland's program.

Q: How many miles of roads are in the City of Richland and maintained under the PPP?

A: The City of Richland currently has 589 lane miles of road and with continued development, this amount increases every year. With the current Pavement Preservation budget of $1,200,000 /year, the City is only able to repair approximately 17 lane miles/year. With the additional $740,000/year collected from the TBD, the City could repair an additional 10lane miles/year.

Q: Who approves the Richland TBD fee?

A: The City Council.  WA State law RCW 36.73 (leg.wa.gov) allows a city or county government to create a Transportation Benefit District and impose an additional vehicle registration fee to fund local transportation projects.

Q: Did the Council consider funding these programs through a property tax increase?

A: Yes. However, in order to fund the programs at equivalent levels, property tax would increase by approx. 5.4%. This amount would not sunset, as opposed to the TBD currently proposed with a 20 year sunset.  Therefore, the TBD was the proposed funding strategy.

 Q: When will the TBD $20 fee take effect?

A: The $20 vehicle license fee will take effect January 1, 2018. The Washington State Department of Licensing collects the fee at the time a vehicle registered within the City of Richland is renewed. If you have more than one vehicle, you will pay the fee on each vehicle when its registration comes up for renewal. 

Q: Does the TBD license fee apply to all vehicles registered in Richland?

A: Is the vehicle being registered to an address in the state of Washington for the first time? If yes, that would not be considered a license renewal and, therefore, not subject to the fee, according to the WA State Department of Licensing. This includes when licensing a brand new car for the first time or a licensing a vehicle transferred from or purchased from other states.

However, if the vehicle has been previously licensed in Washington, whether it's an already owned or a recently purchased used vehicle, the renewal $20 TBD fee would apply, per the WA State Department of Licensing.

Following is a list of vehicles to which the TBD fee would apply:

  • Auto state, six seats or less
  • Commercial Trailer
  • For hire vehicle, six seats or less
  • Mobile home
  • Motor home
  • Motorcycle
  • Passenger car
  • Sport utility vehicle
  • Tow truck
  • Trailer, over 2000 pounds
  • Travel trailer
  • and for each vehicle subject to gross weight license fees under RCW 46.17.355 with a scale weight of six thousand pounds or less.

The WA State law governing TBD fees also sets forth where the fees apply and a few areas where they are exempt. Complete information can be found in Washington law (RCW 82.80.140) here. 

 Q: How much money will be raised by Richland’s vehicle license fees?

A: The vehicle license fees are expected to raise about $875,000 in 2018, based on anticipated registration renewals starting in January.

Q: How will the money raised by these vehicle license fees be used?

A: By state law, the money raised by TBD fees can only be used on improving our transportation system. TBD license fees paid in Richland, stay in Richland. It is estimated that approximately $130,000 per year will be required to retire the debt on the Duportail Bridge and $740,000 per year will be dedicated to the Pavement Preservation Program. The City anticipates beginning collection of the car tab fee in January, 2018 and making its first bond repayment in late 2019, so the full $875,000 annual revenue will be applied to the Pavement Preservation Program in 2018.

Q: Where do my $20 go?

A: Seventeen ($17) of those dollars will go towards the Pavement Preservation Program and $3 will go toward completion of the Duportail Bridge.

Q:  How does the $20.00 tab fee break down for various levels of driving?

A: If you drive 15,000 miles per year, the average defined by AAA, your per mile rate for the $20.00 tab fee will be $0.0013 per mile.  If you drive 5,000 miles per year, your per mile rate will be $0.004 per mile.  If you drive 30,000 miles per year, your per mile rate will be $0.00067 per mile.

Q: Do other cities in Washington have vehicle license fees?

A: Yes. The WA State Department of Licensing lists 54 cities, which have formed Transportation Benefit Districts and adopted vehicle license fees to fund transportation maintenance and improvements. 

Q: Will this be a one-time fee?

A: No, it is an annual fee to provide needed additional, ongoing funding for the Duportail Bridge debt retirement and improving the Pavement Preservation Program in Richland. 

Q: Will the fee have a sunset?

A: Yes. The current proposal is to have the fee sunset with the retirement of the debt to build the Duportail Bridge. The proposal is to retire the debt after twenty years in 2039.

Q: How do we know you won’t increase the $20 to $40 in two years and then again to $50?

A: The proposal before council is $20 with a 20 year sunset. This will be an approved city ordinance.  This council has no intention of increasing the $20 fee.  

Q: Was this be discussed publicly?

A: An advertised public hearing was held on February 21, 2017.

Q: Where can I learn more about this?

A: Extensive information – including reports, meeting notes, videos and more – is available on the City's website at www.ci.richland.wa.us/tbd.

Q: Who can I call if I have more questions?

A: Please email us at publicworks@ci.richland.wa.us or contact Public Works at 942-7500. We'll be happy to answer your questions and, if needed, put you in touch with others who can provide more information.