Angel votes against Kitsap Transit budget

The Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners passed its 2009 budget Tuesday, but without the support of South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, who was concerned that the agency’s staff had not looked hard enough for savings before stopping Sunday bus and foot ferry service.

“Our mission is to move people, but with this plan, we’re not moving people on Sunday,” Angel said, referring to the $31.5 million operating budget that bridges an estimated $4.5 million shortfall in part by shutting down on Sundays.

“I’m not confident that we have scrubbed the numbers enough,” she continued. “We’re affecting the quality of life of people, and I think we should look at this more.”

Angel asked if there was any chance the vote could be delayed long enough to form a committee of citizens tasked with looking over the budget.

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade pointed out that several Kitsap residents had already volunteered to do just that during public meetings held last week in Poulsbo.

“There is not time at this point,” said executive director Dick Hayes, explaining that he was concerned about the agency’s ability to pay its bills if the cuts were not made as scheduled in February and June.

He added that forming such a budget committee was “exactly what we’re planning on doing next year.” When members of the audience grumbled in response, Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown addressed them.

“This isn’t fun for us; we are very well aware of the effects this will have on people’s lives,” Brown said. “But there is no free lunch, and we hope to have a thoughtful discussion (about how to pay for these services) without folks just yelling stuff at us from the audience.”

Budget director Paul Shinners said the agency depended on sales tax revenue for 85 percent of its income, and that number needed to increase by 5 percent annually to maintain operations.

However, in 2008, sales tax revenue fell by 5 percent, and even with all the current cuts, there was still a chance the agency would have to use its line of credit to make ends meet.

Brown said that option made him very uncomfortable given the state of the economy, but North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer said it was his understanding that the agency still maintained $3 million in reserves, which Hayes verified was true.

Bauer and Angel mentioned other alternatives for increasing revenues, such as selling assets and increasing the amount of advertising space the agency sells, which is currently expected to bring in $56,000.

Hayes said there is little if any assets the agency is not currently utilizing, and that currently even the prime ad space — on the sides of buses — frequently goes unsold.

Will Maupin then moved that the board approve the agency’s budget, which included adjusted fare increases, reviving service on three holidays and cutting free shuttle service for special events by 50 percent.

Bauer said he did not agree with “subsidizing” service for special events while cutting bus service. He suggested an amendment to the budget cutting all service for special events, not just half.

“The staff can bring back other alternatives before the season starts (six months from now),” Bauer said.

The board voted to add the amendment, then voted to pass the budget, with Angel the only no vote.

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