Monorail collecting less revenue than expected



SEATTLE - With the latest tax revenue figures for the monorail, you might hear some "I told you so's" from those against the monorail project. In defense, Monorail officials say it was a minor bump in a very long road, and that it's the long-term numbers that matter most.

The monorail gets its money from a motor vehicle excise tax that's slapped on the depreciated value of cars and trucks owned by Seattle residents. For example, for a $10,000 car, the tax is $85 and on a $20,000 vehicle, it's about $170.

Back in April, it was projected that the monorail would receive $4.2 million in monthly tax revenue from the state's Department of Licensing.

In June, the first full month of collecting the new tax, only $2.2 million was collected.
But in June, the first full month of collecting the new tax, only $2.2 million was taken in - a $2 million shortfall.

The head of Seattle's monorail project said there was no need to panic. He said that the numbers were still being adjusted. And that, so far, the overall project is $4 million below budget.

"The inflation rate that we projected last year has been much, much lower," said Joel Horn, monorail executive director. "And so, we projected last year 3 percent that would happen in the last 12 months. It has only been 0.9 percent. That alone is a tremendous amount of savings."

But if the shortfall continues, it could end up being more ammunition for critics who challenged from the start that a lot of Seattle residents would look to evade the tax by registering their vehicles to a post office box outside the city.


Monorail tax revenue falls short

It was still unclear whether registering outside the city was a reason in the big financial gap.

The monorail will be built

Horn said that even with less money coming in, the monorail would still be built within its budget at its planned 14-mile length because, under state law, it must be.

And, he said those who still think they'll never see a citywide monorail need to wake up.

Critics say that some try to evade the monorail tax by registering their cars outside the city.
"This isn't a campaign anymore. This isn't an election. We're building a monorail. It's going to be great," said Horn.

Monorail officials are now even counting down to the first day of the monorail operation - Dec. 15, 2007, or 1,590 days from now.

In the next week or two, the July tax collection numbers will come out, and Seattleites will get a better idea if a shortfall trend is actually taking shape.


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