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County proposes plan to increase car tabs to pay for roads

The Kitsap County Commissioners are considering a proposal to raise car license fees in selected areas in order to fund specific road projects.

“We have a great deal of large scale transportation requirements,” said Special Projects Manager Eric Baker. “Alternative sources will be needed in order to fund those projects.”

The action is made possible from a recent legislative bill allowing local jurisdictions to raise fees up to $20 without voter approval, as long as the money is earmarked to fund transportation improvements. The amount of the increase is required to reflect the exact cost of those projects, with the fee rescinded when the projects are complete.

The law requires that any increase between $20 and $100 can be implemented with voter approval.

According to Baker, the county commissioners have decided to seek the voters’ support for any action, saying “increase of any amount should be supported by a public vote.”

Local governments have three options in implementing this plan: Countywide, in unincorporated areas, or in specific transportation districts. Baker said the county commissioners favor the third option.

Under such an agreement the county would be divided into three districts; south, central and north. Projects would be determined for each area, such as Bethel Corridor, Bucklin Hill and Route 305 respectively.

When cost is determined and plans assembled the voters in the district will decide whether to fund the projects. If approved, only the people living in the district will pay the increase. Bill amounts will be automatically adjusted with regard to residency.

“This is an example of keeping tax money in the community,” said County Spokesperson Clarence Moriwaki.

Baker said the first district to vote would most likely be South Kitsap, as the Bethel Corridor is already in progress. The initial vote could take place as early as May 2008.

“We want to develop the plans and present them to the public,” Baker said. “We are looking for their input.”

As planned, voters in the individual districts would approve or reject the local measures in separate elections. The county would offer the proposal along with other ballot measures in order to cut costs.

Baker said that some people might register cars in one district but live in another in order to save the surcharge, but that most will obey the law.

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