Legislation Establishing Ferry Taxing District Authorization

In 2007 the Washington State Legislature authorized King County to create a ferry taxing district to collect revenue to establish  passenger-only ferry service between Seattle and Vashon Island. King County then set the district county wide ferry tax rate at 5.5 cents per $1,000 assessed value. This raised $18.4 million in 2008. 

The legistature also extended that authorization to Pierce, Skagit, Wahkiakum, and Whatcom counties, although it is not clear that that authorization extends to vehicle ferries or that a county may restrict a district to such a small percentage of the county's property owners as Guemes Island.

RCW 36.54.110

County ferry districts—Authorized—Powers—Governing body—Passenger-only ferry service between Vashon and Seattle.

(1) The legislative authority of a county may adopt an ordinance creating a ferry district in all or a portion of the area of the county, including the area within the corporate limits of any city or town within the county. The ordinance may be adopted only after a public hearing has been held on the creation of a ferry district, and the county legislative authority makes a finding that it is in the public interest to create the district.

(2) A ferry district is a municipal corporation, an independent taxing "authority" within the meaning of Article VII, section 1 of the state Constitution, and a "taxing district" within the meaning of Article VII, section 2 of the state Constitution.

(3) A ferry district is a body corporate and possesses all the usual powers of a corporation for public purposes as well as all other powers that may now or hereafter be specifically conferred by statute, including, but not limited to, the authority to hire employees, staff, and services, to enter into contracts, and to sue and be sued.

(4) The members of the county legislative authority, acting ex officio and independently, shall compose the governing body of any ferry district that is created within the county. The voters of a ferry district must be registered voters residing within the boundaries of the district.

(5) A county with a population greater than one million persons and having a boundary on Puget Sound, or a county to the west of Puget Sound with a population greater than two hundred thirty thousand but less than three hundred thousand persons, proposing to create a ferry district to assume a passenger-only ferry route between Vashon and Seattle, including an expansion of that route to include Southworth, shall first receive approval from the governor after submitting a complete business plan to the governor and the legislature by November 1, 2007. The business plan must, at a minimum, include hours of operation, vessel needs, labor needs, proposed routes, passenger terminal facilities, passenger rates, anticipated federal and local funding, coordination with Washington state ferry system, coordination with existing transit providers, long-term operation and maintenance needs, and long-term financial plan. The business plan may include provisions regarding coordination with an appropriate county to participate in a joint ferry under RCW 36.54.030 through 36.54.070. In order to be considered for assuming the route, the ferry district shall ensure that the route will be operated only by the ferry district and not contracted out to a private entity, all existing labor agreements will be honored, and operations will begin no later than July 1, 2008. If the route is to be expanded to include serving Southworth, the ferry district shall enter into an interlocal agreement with the public transportation benefit area serving the Southworth ferry terminal within thirty days of beginning Southworth ferry service. For the purposes of this subsection, Puget Sound is considered as extending north to Admiralty Inlet.

[ 2007 c 223 § 5; 2006 c 332 § 7; 2003 c 83 § 301.]

NOTES:

Effective date—2007 c 223: See note following RCW 36.57A.220.

Findings—Intent—Captions, part headings not law—Severability—Effective date—2003 c 83: See notes following RCW 36.57A.200.

RCW 36.54.120

County ferry districts—District may construct, purchase, operate, and maintain passenger-only ferries and wharves.

A ferry district may construct, purchase, operate, and maintain passenger-only ferries or wharves at any unfordable stream, lake, estuary, or bay within or bordering the ferry district, or between portions of the ferry district, or between the ferry district and other ferry districts, together with all the necessary boats, grounds, roads, approaches, and landings appertaining thereto under the direction and control of the governing body of the ferry district, free or for toll as the governing body determines by resolution.

[ 2003 c 83 § 302.]

 

RCW 36.54.130

County ferry districts—Tax levy authorized—Uses.

(1) To carry out the purposes for which ferry districts are created, the governing body of a ferry district may levy each year an ad valorem tax on all taxable property located in the district not to exceed seventy-five cents per thousand dollars of assessed value, except a ferry district in a county with a population of one million five hundred thousand or more may not levy at a rate that exceeds seven and one-half cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. The levy must be sufficient for the provision of ferry services as shown to be required by the budget prepared by the governing body of the ferry district.

(2) A tax imposed under this section may be used only for:

(a) Providing ferry services, including the purchase, lease, or rental of ferry vessels and dock facilities;

(b) The operation, maintenance, and improvement of ferry vessels and dock facilities;

(c) Providing shuttle services between the ferry terminal and passenger parking facilities, and other landside improvements directly related to the provision of passenger-only ferry service; and

(d) Related personnel costs.

[ 2009 c 551 § 4; 2007 c 223 § 6; 2006 c 332 § 9; 2003 c 83 § 303.]

RCW 36.54.135

County ferry districts—General indebtedness, bond issuance.

(1) A county ferry district may incur general indebtedness, and issue general obligation bonds, to finance the construction, purchase, and preservation of passenger-only ferries and associated terminals and retire the indebtedness in whole or in part from the revenues received from the tax levy authorized in RCW 36.54.130.

(2) The ordinance adopted by the county legislative authority creating the county ferry district and authorizing the use of revenues received from the tax levy authorized in RCW 36.54.130 must indicate an intent to incur this indebtedness and the maximum amount of this indebtedness that is contemplated.

[ 2007 c 223 § 7.]

 

RCW 36.54.170

County ferry districts—Treasurer—Ferry district fund.

(1) The treasurer of the county in which a ferry district is located shall be treasurer of the district. The county treasurer shall receive and disburse ferry district revenues, collect taxes authorized and levied under this chapter, and credit district revenues to the proper fund.

(2) The county treasurer shall establish a ferry district fund, into which must be paid all district revenues, and the county treasurer shall also maintain such special funds as may be created by the governing body of a ferry district, into which the county treasurer shall place all money as the governing body of the district may, by resolution, direct.

(3) The county treasurer shall pay out money received for the account of the ferry district on warrants issued by the county auditor against the proper funds of the district.

(4) All district funds must be deposited with the county depositaries under the same restrictions, contracts, and security as provided for county depositaries.

(5) All interest collected on ferry district funds belongs to the district and must be deposited to its credit in the proper district funds.

[ 2003 c 83 § 307.]

 

WAC 136-400-010

Purpose and authority.

RCW 47.56.725(4) provides that the county road administration board may evaluate requests for county ferry capital improvement funds by Pierce, Skagit, Wahkiakum, and Whatcom counties, and, if approved by the board, submit said requests to the legislature for funding. This chapter describes the manner in which the county road administration board will implement the provisions of the act.

WAC 136-400-020

County and project eligibility.

(1) Counties eligible to apply for county ferry capital improvement funds are Pierce, Skagit, Wahkiakum, and Whatcom.

(2) For the project to be eligible it must be included in both the county's six-year transportation program and its ferry system fourteen-year long range capital improvement plan as described in WAC 136-400-040.

(3) Any county holding an approved and executed county ferry capital improvement program contract is ineligible to submit a project funding application for additional ferry capital improvement funds until the existing contract is fully performed or has been mutually terminated.

 

WAC 136-400-030

Definition of ferry capital improvement projects.

County ferry capital improvement projects shall include the following:

(1) Purchase of new vessels;

(2) Major vessel refurbishment (e.g., engines, structural steel, controls) that substantially extends the life of the vessel;

(3) Facility refurbishment/replacement (e.g., complete replacement, major rebuilding or redecking of a dock) that substantially extends the life of the facility;

(4) Installation of items that substantially improve ferry facilities or operations; and/or

(5) Construction of infrastructure that provides new or additional access or increases the capacity of terminal facilities.

WAC 136-400-065

Project financing.

(1) The maximum contribution by the county ferry capital improvement program is ten million dollars for any one project and five hundred thousand dollars total annual reimbursement to one county.

(2) Depending on whether a county applicant has formed a ferry district pursuant to RCW 36.54.110 and generated revenue to finance the project, project cost sharing for each applicant shall be as follows:

(a) If ferry district revenues finance greater than thirty percent of the proposed project costs, the ferry capital improvement program may contribute up to the remaining project cost, subject to the maximum described in subsection (1) of this section;

(b) If ferry district revenues finance greater than five percent but less than or equal to thirty percent of the proposed project costs, the ferry capital improvement program may contribute up to fifty percent of the project cost, subject to the maximum described in subsection (1) of this section;

(c) If ferry district revenues finance less than or equal to five percent of the project costs, or the county has not formed a ferry district, the ferry capital improvement program may contribute up to thirty percent of the project cost, subject to the maximum described in subsection (1) of this section.