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Bethel improvement tax coming?

In 2008, South Kitsap voters may be asked to create a Transportation Benefit District, funded through a motor vehicle license fee or a property tax to pay for the expansion and repair of Bethel Road.

On Monday evening at a meeting with the Port Orchard City Council, Kitsap County Community Development staffer Eric Baker presented an update of the proposal that would expand and improve 1.8 miles of Bethel Road from SE Ives Mill Road to Lincoln Avenue SE.

The county proposes the $43 million project be funded through two sources — a property tax assessment from parcels immediately surrounding Bethel Road, and a property tax assessment or motor vehicle license fee from residents farther outside the area in South Kitsap.

Those closest to Bethel Road — who have direct access to Bethel — will decide on a 20-year property tax funding 41 percent of the overall cost — or $17.8 million.

The county proposed $95 per year for property smaller than an acre, and $380 per year for parcels able to build four residences on a single property.

Commercial property — including some lots that hold residences — would pay $2,660 per acre per year. Senior citizens in this situation could receive a deferral up to 80 percent.

This tax would be approved by and imposed on only those in the immediate Bethel Corridor, and would require a simple majority for approval.

Properties in the larger surrounding area could see a tax item on the ballot May of 2008. The taxation would come in the form of a 20-year property tax or motor vehicle license fee.

Whichever is proposed would pay for 59 percent of the project — $25.5 million.

The county’s first option — a property tax — proposes $23 per year for parcels smaller than an acre, and $92 per year for properties to build four residences on a single parcel.

Commercial property owners would pay $127 per developable acre per year. Industrial property owners would pay $78 per developable acre per year.

The property tax would require at least 60 percent approval from affected residents.

The county’s second option — the motor vehicle license fee — proposes a $26 fee per vehicle, which would require at least 50 percent approval from affected residents.

Recent legislation allows counties and cities to impose a $20 fee without a vote, but Kitsap County and Port Orchard have vowed not to enact the fee without voter approval, whatever the amount.

“It is still this city’s belief that we would need to go to the voters for less than that,” Mayor Kim Abel said Thursday.

The two-source plan changed from April when Baker presented the council with “three-legged stool” proposal.

The county initially proposed a portion of the funding come from the county road fund. But Baker said the fund has been eaten up by operation and maintenance costs, and if Port Orchard annexes any of the Bethel Corridor, those funds would no longer apply.

That portion of the fund has been combined into the second funding mechanism.

“The most recent proposal creates a guaranteed funding source for every component,” Baker said Wednesday.

The county has asked the city council to look over the information and make recommendations because the project could benefit both government agencies, especially if Port Orchard annexes portions of Bethel.

The city council made suggestions to minimize the impact on residents. Councilman John Clauson suggested a hybrid method, pulling additional funds from impact fees for new developments, and retiring the other fees sooner than 20 years.

DiIenno worried that before long residents will face multiple taxing districts, but Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel said the county is working to avoid that.

Referring to the other commissioners, Angel said, “They do not want to impede on our chance to be successful.”

On Thursday, Abel said city staff was trying to arrange a public meeting at which Port Orchard residents could discuss the plan and determine which option was preferred.

The meeting will be scheduled for the first half of September, Abel said.

Visit www.kitsapgov.com/boc/special_projects_division/bethel/bethel.htm for more information on the project.

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