Port Orchard Council weighs in on tax increase for mental health funding proposal

Two Port Orchard councilmembers support the Kitsap County Mental Health Funding Proposal, but think voters should decide the outcome instead of county commissioners.

Thus, Councilman Jerry Childs and Councilwoman Cindi Lucarelli voted no on a resolution supporting the Kitsap County Mental Health Funding Proposal during the Jan. 22 City Council meeting.

The resolution was approved by a 5-2 vote.Kitsap County Commissioners are considering to enact a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax to provide funding for mental health and dependence treatment program and services.

“I could not support this more, but the process I can not support,” said Lucarelli. “I can’t support a tax increase that doesn’t go before the voters.”

Lucarelli said the measure should go before voters during the November election.

“Because it is such a worthy cause, the voters do need to weigh in on it, because the voters will have to pay,” said Lucarelli.

Childs said because it is a financial matter, it need to go on the ballot.“I’m for it, but I am not going to put my name of something pretending that seven of us here are speaking for 11,000 people,” Childs said.

Councilman Robert Putaansuu, whose wife works in mental health, said county commissioners were elected to make the tough decisions.“I think it’s our role to speak in support of this,” he said.

Councilman Jim Colebank said he hasn’t voted for a tax increase in five years on the Council and also agreed the voters need to approve the measure.But Colebank added he doesn’t trust the commissioners.

“I don’t trust the county commissioners to do the transparent accounting,” Colegrove said.“I see how money goes and how it gets transferred into some other funds.”

Joe Roszak, executive director of Kitsap Mental Health Services, said the funds would be “raised by Kitsap County, stay in Kitsap County and help people in Kitsap County.”“It is such a small investment with large returns,” Roszak said.

Roszak said if the measure is passed, it would help reduce the costs of jail, hospital rooms and emergency rooms.

“They are the three most expensive alternatives to mental health,” he added. “And right now, they are the most heavily used.”

Roszak said, to date, of the 20 counties that has enacted the one-tenth of one percent sales tax increase for mental health, only one county — Spokane — took the measure before voters.

“That which is popular is the not always the right thing to do, but the right thing to do is not always the popular thing to do,”

Roszak said.Mason, Jefferson, Challam and King counties have adopted the sales tax.

“This is important to me and to those who help design and advocating for this,” Roszak said. “Be believe the integrity of our agencies, as well as my own, is at stake.”

Bremerton Municipal County Judge James Doctor noted the tax would be spread among the entire county and money generated would “go to a bigger benefit than we can pay for.”

“It’s really an ounce of prevention for a pounds of cure,” Doctor said. “You should not be penny wise and pound foolish.During the public hearing on the proposal, several people testified before the Council on how mental health facilities help them overcome their problems and addictions.

Justin Turner said because of the county’s mental health facilities and treatment centers, he is now able to be a productive citizen.“One cent of one dollar is a small price to pay,” he said.

A woman testified and said without mental health and treatment centers, she would “be dead.”

“Please help us,” she said. “There are a lot of women trying to get their children back. A lot of children need their mothers.”

The group will present their proposed mental health tax initiative at a Kitsap County commissioners’ work-study session at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, in the Administration Building in Port Orchard.

They will ask the board to consider passing a resolution to support the tax initiative.If commissioners approve the resolution, a public hearing date will be set.

Commissioners could institute the tax without a public vote, according to state law.


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