Three tax measures on Jefferson County ballot in February

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND -- Jefferson County voters will address three tax measures -- two proposed property tax levies and one sales tax increase question -- on the Feb. 8 ballot.

Advocates of the measures say all are necessary to continue adequate service.

The Port Townsend and the Chimacum school districts are asking voters to renew maintenance and operations property tax levies, a four-year levy in Port Townsend and a three-year levy in Chimacum.

Jefferson Transit is requesting a 0.3 percent sales tax increase, which will add 3 cents to each $10 nonfood purchase and will go to maintaining existing public bus service levels.

Supporters of the measures recognize that an anti-tax sentiment is prevalent but feel that voters will see the value in their services and vote to support them.

'Staying positive'

"We are staying positive," said Chimacum Schools Superintendent Craig Downs.

"We are hoping that voters will recognize our history of community support that has been offered to the school district and support its continuation.

"Voters need to know that this money is being used for programs we need, and that funding from the state does not give us enough money to run these programs."

Both school district boards say that the requested measures hold the line on taxes, but they reflect a 4 percent to 5 percent annual increase for inflation.

Both would gradually increase their property tax allocation to the district by more than 20 percent over a four-year period -- by 22 cents per $1,000 assessment in Port Townsend and by 34 cents per $1,000 in Chimacum.

Port Townsend's rate now is $1.17 per $1,000 assessed valuation, which would increase to $1.39 per $1,000 by 2015.

It proposes producing for the district $3.1 million the first year of collection in 2012 -- or $1.23 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation, a total of $246 in taxes for a $200,000 home.

The district would collect $3.2 million at $1.28 per $1,000 in 2013, $3.35 million at $1.33 per $1,000 in 2014 and $3.49 million at $1.39 per $1,000 in 2015.

Chimacum's current rate is $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The district is asking to increase that amount to $1.34 per $1,000 by 2015.

It aims to generate $2.3 million for 2012, $2.4 million for 2013 and $2.5 million for 2014.

It would cost each property taxpayer $1.23 per $1,000 assessed value the first year, $1.29 per $1,000 the second year and almost $1.34 per $1,000 the third year.

In order to enact the increases, the levies must be approved by more than percent of those casting ballots.

The increases would be reflected on the 2012 property tax bill.

Defeat of the school measures, said Jefferson County Assessor Jack Westerman III, is not likely to happen.

"People see the value in the schools and the money they are paying to support them," Westerman said.

"Most voters understand that the increase is not significant."

Superintendent Gene Laes has said the levy provides $3 million of the district's $13 million budget, and failure of the levy would devastate programs.

The current levy funds about 24 percent of the district's total expenses. The proposed levy would maintain that percentage.

Chimacum School Board member Ted Friedrich said that losing the measure would put the school district in jeopardy and cut its existing $500,000 in reserve funds by more than half.

"If we don't get this money now, it will cost us more later," Friedrich said.

"It costs less to educate someone than for them to go on welfare or go into prison."

Neither the school levies nor the transit sales tax increase will provide for new programs.

Instead, they will keep current programs in place and avoid cutbacks.

All three boards have voted to submit the ballot measures, and the paperwork must be completed by Dec. 27.

Cost of election

Each entity will share in the cost of the election, following a state guideline that apportions the cost based on the number of voters in the district.

Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge estimated 22,500 registered voters in Jefferson County, with elections costing approximately $2 per voter, or $45,000.

In numbers that she characterized as rough estimates, Eldridge said Jefferson Transit will be billed $23,700 as its share of the special election, with Port Townsend schools paying $11,800 (11,050 voters) and Chimacum schools paying $9,100 (8,500 voters).

This would change of other ballot measures be submitted.

Eldridge said the only other measure that she is aware of is a levy lift for the Quillayute School District, but that district's 160 voters "will not dramatically decrease the other agencies''' share in the election cost.

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

Last modified: December 12. 2010 10:52PM
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