Kitsap Transit answers I-695 with layoff notices

"More of Kitsap Transit’s employees received layoff notices after Initiative 695 passed last Tuesday.A total of 84 people will lose their jobs Jan. 3, 2000. The layoffs are part of a comprehensive Kitsap Transit plan to cut 25 percent of its services by the end of this year in response to the 43 percent of its budget slashed by I-695.“This is real,” said Kitsap Transit executive director Dick Hayes. “All of what we said we would cut (if I-695 passed), we’ll cut.” When layoff notices were issued in late October to 62 of the transit agency’s 370 employees, some initiative proponents criticized the move as “scare tactics.” “Some people thought we were crying wolf, but now it’s clear that there’s really no other option,” Hayes said. “When you have to cut 43 percent of your budget, you don’t have a lot of options. We have to cut 25 percent (of services) right now so we know what we have to work with.”Kitsap Transit plans to ask voters in February to approve a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase to replace some of the money lost in state motor vehicle excise tax revenues--about $2.4 million. Raising fares could generate $500,000 in additional revenue, and transit officials hope for $2 million from the Legislature.If all of these new funding sources come together, they’d compensate Transit for only half of the $10 million it stands to lose in vehicle tax revenue next year. The service cuts Transit is making now cancel out the other $5 million.But if voters don’t pass the sales tax, or if the Legislature doesn’t give Kitsap Transit any money, Hayes said another 10 to 25 percent of service cuts will have to be made.Getting money from the Legislature is a poor bet at best, because programs that formerly received vehicle tax revenues will likewise be clamoring for replacement funds.Hayes said he was resigned to making the first round of cuts even before Tuesday’s election. “I did my grieving last week,” he said Wednesday.He added that a great deal of capital improvement money is invested in the Bremerton Transportation Center, which has been bogged down in development difficulties and squeezes cash even more tightly in other areas.“I wish we didn’t have so much money tied up” in the transportation center project, Hayes said, “or this would be a lot easier.”"

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