Sales tax measure to be on Jefferson County's November ballot
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The ballot measure was submitted to the Jefferson County Auditor's Office just two hours before the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline.
The measure would raise the Jefferson County sales tax rate from the present 8.4 percent to 8.7 percent, or three cents for every $10 purchase.
Forty percent of the tax increase revenue, projected to be $1,062,000, would, by law, go to Port Townsend. The rest would go toward helping to fill the county's projected $900,000 shortfall in 2011.
If approved, the new sales tax would take effect April 1, 2011.
Revenues from the sales tax hike would go to the sheriff and prosecuting attorney's offices -- as well as other public safety services -- and youth programs, juvenile programs, senior services, community centers, public health and basic government services.
The finished measure incorporated a change suggested by the Port Townsend City Council late Monday evening.
Four members of the council -- Mayor Michelle Sandoval, Deputy Mayor George Randals, and council members Laurie Medlicott and Kris Nelson -- unanimously approved a resolution which says that the city would use half of its share of the tax to support county parks for up to four years.
The county's version had specified the support of county parks for six years.
The parks are the Port Townsend Community Center and Memorial Field.
Three council members -- Catharine Robinson, Mark Welch and David King -- were on vacation.
Council member Kris Nelson said she supported the tax increase but disagreed with the time frame.
County Administrator Philip Morley suggested inserting the phrase "up to six years" but Nelson advocated the wording of "up to three" years, before the final decision was made.
Council member Laurie Medlicott said that if the city was paying for continued upkeep of the facilities there should be a way to transfer their ownership to the city.
"In government, six years feels like forever," Sandoval said after the meeting.
"We want to work with the county and help them out of their shortfall, but we could be in the exact same situation down the road and don't want to be on the hook for the full maintenance of these facilities.
"We took over the management of the pool for what we thought would be a limited time, and now everyone looks to us as if it is our permanent responsibility."
The next step is for the city and the county to develop an interlocal agreement that spells out exactly how the money would be distributed between the two agencies.
The agreement would not be subject to voter approval and would be able to be modified.
The process of developing the agreement will most likely begin with a meeting between Morley and City Manager David Timmons "to be scheduled as soon as possible."
Development of the agreement could eventually include staff, elected officials and the public, Morley said.
Sandoval said the interlocal agreement would answer many of the outstanding questions, and raise some others.
For instance, given the current budget crunch it is "redundant" to have more than one recreation program in the Port Townsend area, she said.
The proposal is described as a public safety tax measure, although the final title reads as "sales and use tax for public safety, youth and senior services, community services and basic government public services."
The largest portion of its revenue would go to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. Money also would go to community centers, the Washington State University extension service and the Jefferson County Fair.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: August 11. 2010 12:27AM