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Port Orchard council approves property tax hike

Port Orchard resident Ron Bates watched the value of his home drop by $40,000 last year but saw his property taxes increase at the same time.

And he’s not alone.

“Most of us who live in South Kitsap did see a tax increase,” even though South Kitsap home values dropped by 4 percent three years ago, 10 percent two years ago and 7 to 8 percent last year said Jim Avery, the Kitsap County assessor.

“In 2009, we voted for pretty significant increases for South Kitsap Fire and Rescue and for schools,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Port Orchard City Council voted to raise taxes by the 1 percent legal annual maximum amount.

Houses valued at about $240,000 will only owe $5 more each year in taxes, but the increase will bring in an estimated $23,044 more for the city this year compared to last year.

That was enough to turn two councilmen against the increase.

It passed with 5 in favor to 2 opposed.

Councilmen Fred Chang and Jim Colebank voted against the increase.

“I ran on a campaign promise not to raise taxes without a vote of the people,” said Colebank. “I’m trying to hold to my campaign promises.”

“It appears to me that people in the state of Washington don’t want to raise taxes right now,” he said, referencing the election on Nov. 2.

Chang said that he didn’t want the money to just go into the general fund but “wanted something more tangable.”

"I actually wanted to be convinced why I should vote for this 1 percent increase," he said. "I wanted it to be designated."

But Carolyn Powers, who voted for the increase, said the price tag wasn’t terribly high, considering that the city didn’t raise the tax last year and its expenses have increased.

Mayor Larry Coppola agreed.

“Basically, it’s $5 for the whole year, but our costs have gone up significantly,” he said.

For example, he noted, three of the city’s police cars have more than 100,000 miles on them.

“There comes a point where you either have to raise taxes or cut services,” he said. “We’ve done a good job of managing the city’s money, but there’s some things that we just can’t put off any longer.”

The council held a public meeting on Oct. 26 to discuss the proposed tax increase, and the ordinance passing the increase states that the council members thought the issue thoroughly.

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