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Port tax is second--and final--IDD levy

The recent tax levy imposed by the Port of Bremerton — actually passed last year but first felt when homeowners’ property tax bills arrived in February — angered many residents and inspired at least one to run for a seat on the organization’s Board of Commissioners.

But port officials defended the levy as a “last recourse” for building a larger, improved Bremerton Marina, and explained that at the very least, it will be the last time the port can impose such a tax.

“State law provides for establishing an Industrial Development District tax,” said port Chief Executive Officer Ken Attebery, explaining also that imposing such levies by ports do not require approval by voters. However, he said ports are limited to only two such levies — ever.

“The first IDD created was in the 1960s, for the airport and areas including (SKIA) and in Gorst,” he said, adding that the IDD created for the Bremerton waterfront “in either 2005 or ’06” is now the second.

The resolution that then enacted the second IDD tax was No. 2006-54, which adopted the port’s 2007 budget, along with “acceptance and approval of the Six-Year Capital Plan for years 2007-2012,” was passed unanimously at the Nov. 14, 2006, board meeting.

A public hearing was held before adoption, but there were no comments.

However, at the meeting held March 13, 2007, South Kitsap residents Anne and Dan Pickens addressed the commissioners, asking if they realized the tax on the port district’s residents had been increased by 150 percent, and wondering why the port was able to levy such a tax without voter approval.

According to the meeting’s minutes, Commissioner Bill Mahan explained that state law grants ports the ability to impose such levies for IDDs without voter approval — but only twice over the port’s lifetime.

Since the first such district and levy was enacted in the 1960s, Mahan said this will be the final such levy.

Mahan also clarified that “although it may seem like the commissioners made this decision without thought, the process began over six years ago to find a way to fund the (Bremerton) marina expansion” and that “none of the commissioners wanted to do it, but the last recourse was to establish the Industrial Development District and levy the tax.”

Attebery confirmed that the port spent “years analyzing how the marina would be funded,” and the levy was the final option.

He said this year’s amount could very likely be the highest, and that regardless it will expire in six years. However, he said the levy prior to that of 30 cents per $1,000 was a “regular” port levy that will not expire.

In contrast to the residents’ complaints at the March 13 meeting, Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman praised the port’s “courageous act .. that is an investment in the community that will produce upwards of ten million dollars of growth,” according to the minutes.

Also, Norm McLoughlin of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority praised the board, stating there “may be an increase in tax now, but the economic impact will spread throughout the community ... adding an enormous amount of tourist dollars into the community.”

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