News & Press
Monorail moves to end car tax June 30
By ANGELO BRUSCAS
The Seattle Monorail Project board officially moved Thursday night to end June 30 the special motor vehicle tax levied on Seattle vehicle owners to pay for the now-defunct project.
The board received a report that 31 of its 33 purchased properties have now been sold back at a profit of about $14 million.
The board passed a resolution to inform the state Department of Licensing to end billing for the monorail tax after July, and then said the project expects to end the year with a surplus it intends to keep on hand for any emergencies or unforeseen litigation.
Of two properties that remain to be sold, the project paid $1.5 million total for both. As of now, the project has agreements to sell the 31 properties it bought for the monorail for $70.6 million, after paying $56.2 million for the properties.
The board expects to sell all of its property for a total of $72.5 million, about $15 million more than it paid.
The Seattle Monorail Project was formed in 2002 to build a 13.6-mile monorail system from Crown Hill to West Seattle via downtown. Nearly two years ago, it began buying land for stations and an operations center, ranging in size from a city lot to 7.6 acres.
The agency began moving to sell the land early this year after city voters halted the monorail project. It's one of the biggest sales ever of a collection of properties along major arterials such as California Avenue Southwest, Fifth Avenue, First Avenue South, Northwest Market Street and 15th Avenue Northwest.
One of the biggest sales approved in a board meeting Thursday was for three parcels downtown on Fifth Avenue. The board had paid $9 million for the parcels, and has received a bid from Multi Capital LLC to buy the property for $15 million.
Monorail project manager Jonathan Buchter said that if all the sales are completed as scheduled and all the vehicle license fees are collected, the board should have an ending cash balance of $4.4 million.
"I would suggest to you that it is a secondary reserve," Buchter said. "We don't ever want to be in a position where we don't have enough money to meet our obligations." As long as the license tab tax remains in place, the project continues to receive about $4 million a month from that, Buchter said.
But he dampened any ideas of retiring the tax even earlier, despite the projected ending cash reserve. "If we tried to cut off the (car tab tax) any sooner, we would be right at the razor's edge, " Buchter said.
The board has to keep a reserve to handle potential relocation costs for affected property owners, as well as a reserve for potential legal challenges and other litigation.
Should the project end in the red, the only way for it to raise money again would be to re-enact the vehicle license tax, and that would require a special resolution.
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