City hears sales tax pitch

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge presented the Port Orchard City Council with a proposal on Monday night in a presentation that has been “making the rounds” at city council meetings all over the county.

Hauge, working in conjunction with Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer and the police chiefs of Bainbridge Island, Bremerton and Poulsbo as well as Port Orchard’s own Police Chief Al Townsend, presented to the council a proposed Law Enforcement Sales Tax Initiative that would raise the sales tax in Kitsap County by .15 percent, car sales excluded.

“We’re spreading the word,” Hauge said.

Hauge said the council should think about passing a resolution to join in an interlocal agreement concerning law and justice sales tax revenue with the other three cities, the Sheriff’s Office and the county and thus be entitled to a share of the revenue.

A draft of the agreement was given to the councilmembers. Hauge has been giving the presentation to the various players to ensure everyone is “singing from the same sheet of music.”

According to Hauge, the initiative stems from a section of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) that allows local governments to raise sales tax revenue up to three-tenths of 1 percent in order to better protect their cities.

There are restrictions — the county will put the initiative on the ballot and, if it is approved, the funds must be used for needs that can’t be met by any existing sources of revenue.

That is, the money is to help law enforcement agencies go above and beyond what they can already afford.

Hauge said the proposal will ask voters for half of what is allowed by law.

“We looked at what we needed, not what the statue said,” Hauge said.

If voters approve the proposed levy, the Law and Justice Sales Tax revenue would be utilized in ways not possible with the existing budget.

The Port Orchard Police Department would gain a community service officer to help fight property crime, a school resources officer to underscore safety in South Kitsap schools, a “problem resolution officer,” and a part-time records/service desk clerk for clerical support.

Overall, Port Orchard would gain $1.5 million worth of personnel.

The other three cities would also gain personnel dependent on their needs. The county would be able to hire an analyst to serve all the law enforcement offices, six patrol deputies, a detective, a community resources officer to staff Kitsap Mall’s Community Crime Prevention Resources Center, two commissioned traffic safety officers, a school resources officer, a sergeant and four deputies for a “Criminal Interdiction Team,” and three support services personnel for a total of $9.6 million.

The total projected revenue spend on members of the interlocal agreement? More than $21 million. If the estimate is lower than the revenue, the excess monies would be split between the County and the four cities, 60-40.

Hauge admitted one controversial part of the interlocal draft is the sunset clause. According to the prosecutor, a decision needs to be made as to whether or not the tax will be put back on the ballot every five years, or be permanent.

Hauge said he thinks the initiative is more likely to be approved if voters know they will be able to hold local governments accountable if they have not spent the money wisely. However, several councilmembers expressed concern over not having the money to retain the personnel if the initiative were rejected in five years.

The council will review the draft and give comments to Townsend who represents Port Orchard at the drafting table.

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