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City rejects Transportation Benefit District

The Port Orchard City Council members on Monday discussed — but opted not to embrace — the possibility of pursuing a now-available option to impose a transportation benefit district without a public election.

A bill (HB-1858) signed by Christine Gregoire in May allows counties and cities to create such a district — and impose a $20 fee per vehicle — without the necessity of an election. Fees any higher than $20. however, must be put to a vote.

The district must be set for a designated project and used for that project only.

But the members reiterated their preference for holding an election no matter what the dollar figure, in the wake of voter sticker shock of property tax increases from the Port of Bremerton and the South Kitsap Fire District and failed bond efforts from the South Kitsap School District and the Kitsap Public Library.

“That was a little bit of a shock to some people,” Councilman Bob Geiger said of the property tax increases.

The sentiment was shared by the rest of the council.

“This council will insist that this be a ballot issue,” Councilwoman Carolyn Powers said.

Councilwoman Rita DiIenno felt that by imposing its bond without a vote, the Port of Bremerton hurt the chances of other tax measures that do need voter approval.

The city will wait to determine their participation in the transportation benefit district program until Kitsap County makes its decision. A county, city or a partnership of two cities can put together such a district. Powers said the council will need to decide what it wants for Port Orchard and determine whether it wants to work with the county.

“I think that’s a big question,” she said. “Whether we want to go it alone or go with the county.”

City staff estimated that if a $20 per care fee went into effect, the city would raise $165,000 in a year.

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