Anderson eyes development boom taxes for capital improvements

Benefits of a 10-year tax abatement program for multi-family housing in downtown Tacoma could be seen in some of the capital improvement projects currently being proposed at City Hall, according to a presentation to councilmembers Tuesday.

City Manager Eric Anderson is calling for Tacoma City Council to consider using Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenues to fund an array of capital improvements projects Anderson described as “urgent and emerging.”

In detail, Anderson’s proposal calls for the following:

— $500,000 to rehabilitate the Puget Sound Freight Building. “Further deterioration threatens the building,” said Anderson. “If we don’t do something, we’re going to lose the building,” said Anderson.

— $500,000 to purchase waterfront property to create a permanent home to Sea Scouts, an outdoor program for young people to learn more about sailing and the sea. Currently, the organization is temporarily housed in a facility on the west side of the Foss Waterway. The new home, which would be a collaborative venture between the city, port, and county, would be on the west side of the Foss.

— $550,000 to acquire property for a new fire station in South Tacoma. “Call volumes have spiked dramatically in the South End,” said Anderson. Additionally, he wants to spend $3.5 million for repairs to fire stations throughout the city. “They need to be improved, and our firefighters definitely deserve it,” he added.

— $350,000 to relocate Engine 6 to a more central location on the tideflats in order to serve the Port of Tacoma and Northeast Tacoma.

— $250,000 for to upgrade boilers and HVAC systems in a number of senior centers. “The current system is both energy and personnel inefficient, uses city resources, and limits our program abilities at senior centers,” said Anderson.

The plan also calls for multi-year funding of $500,000 annually over the next six years for major maintenance upgrades to Broadway Center for the Performing Arts.

Anderson’s capital improvement list comes at a time when councilmembers are gearing up for preparing its 2007-2007 biennium budget.

Councilmembers will hold two workshops to discuss the capital budget — one on June 24 at 8:30 a.m., and another on June 28 at 4:30 p.m. The public may attend the workshops in Room 16, Tacoma Municipal Building North, 733 Market St., but the Council will not take public comment. CityPost (Channel 85 on Click!, Channel 77 on Comcast) will broadcast the audio portion of the session live.

Mayor Bill Baarsma said Anderson’s proposal illustrates the importance of the city’s tax abatement program, despite criticism that the program is a handout for developers. “We get REET taxes as those condos are sold,” he said. “This is where we get the benefit.”