Tax hike for Three Rivers Convention Center expansion

KENNEWICK, Wash. - Next month you'll be asked to raise sales taxes slightly to build a new aquatic center.

In another few months voters in Kennewick will be asked to raise taxes again.

Big projects often don't happen without tax hikes. The crime tax in Pasco paid for the street crimes unit. The public safety tax covered the new Franklin County jail.

Kennewick is hoping for the same kind of success, asking voters to approve a sales tax hike this November. A tenth of a cent increase would cover an expansion of the Tri-Cities Convention Center.

Mayor Steve Young of Kennewick, "We've shown in the past that people will not stop buying on one penny on ten dollars."

Paying one penny more for every $10 you spend would not only double the size of the convention center but double the money brought in by events.

Planners think it could boost the local economy to bring in $80 million a year. Close to 500 new jobs could be created to support events at the center.

Kennewick believes it's a huge return on a small investment.

Local business owners like Billy Hogue, he worries the increase could put him under. He opened a consignment store three months ago. "Sweet Caroline's" is his retirement investment.

Billy worries that a tenth of a-cent hike of the sales tax to expand the convention center *and a second hike to build the aquatic center could be detrimental.

He said,"That's going to put less people in the store, nobody's gonna come in here and buy this stuff we sell and it's really, really going to hurt our bottom line."

Of course city leaders see it the other way around. An expansion of the convention center would include a complete overhaul of the Toyota Arena. A new performing arts center and hotel are also in the plans.

Kennewick's mayor believes business owners like Billy shouldn't be concerned.

"The reality is, you're increasing the number of tourists coming into this community," he said.

Appealing to a whole new customer base with both offerings.

A vote on the aquatic center is next month. For the convention center it would be in the fall.

If it fails, it could be back on the ballot in the spring.