Jefferson County, Port Townsend city to consider sales tax hike proposal separately

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND -- A proposal to raise the sales tax in Jefferson County to compensate for a projected $900,000 county shortfall will get marathon consideration Monday, coming before the Jefferson County commissioners in the morning and the Port Townsend City Council at night.

As proposed, the sales tax rate in Jefferson County would be hiked by 0.3 percent, from the present 8.4 percent to 8.7 percent, or three cents for every $10 purchase.

Projected revenue from the measure, which commissioners plan to place on the Nov. 2 ballot, would be $1,062,000.

Forty percent of the tax increase revenue would, by law, go to Port Townsend.

If approved, the new sales tax would take effect April 1, 2011.

The commissioners will discuss the initiative at 11 a.m. Monday, after their regular business meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St., Port Townsend.

They are expected to approve ballot language for the measure, decide to place it on the Nov. 2 ballot, and pass a resolution that outlines what programs will not be cut if the measure is approved.

The deadline for placing the measure on the ballot is Tuesday.

The measure, it is estimated, would raise $637,000 for Jefferson County.

The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. in chambers at 540 Water St., to consider supporting the measure, which would raise an estimated $425,000 for the city.

Council members also are expected to discuss an agreement to use half of its revenue to support public safety and the remainder to support the maintenance and operation of the Port Townsend Community Center and Memorial Field, both county facilities.

If the City Council takes issue with the proposal and it needs fine tuning, the commissioners have scheduled a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to address those matters.

Both meetings allocate time for public comments.

The Jefferson County prosecuting attorney is scheduled to inspect the proposed ballot measure on Tuesday prior to submitting it to the county auditor for inclusion on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The measure will be designated as a "public safety" measure. By law, one third of its revenues, in each of the county and city jurisdictions, would have to used to support law and justice.

The remaining two thirds can be spent in other areas.

The ballot measure, "Proposition 1, Local sales and use tax for public safety, youth and senior services and basic government public services," would list 13 endangered programs that will be funded if the measure passes, County Administrator Philip Morley said.

"We want to give people a choice whether they want to cut these programs," Morley said.

The largest single allocation would be to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. The $175,000 from the sales tax increase would fund one deputy, one animal control officer and safety training.

The smallest single allocation would be $2,800 to the Gardiner Community Center.

The city's share of the proposed sales tax hike's revenue that would go to the Port Townsend Community Center and Memorial Field would help keep both facilities running, supporters say.

The community center is closed, while Memorial Field must depend on volunteers to keep it operating.

Recently, contractor Rick Stapf financed the installation of an $18,000 sprinkler system on the field, and is conducting a private fundraising effort to reimburse that money.

Morley said on Friday there will be county representation at the City Council meeting.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 08. 2010 2:02AM
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