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County pushing its ‘buy local’ agenda

Kitsap County is in deep financial trouble, exacerbated by the fact that its sales tax revenue cannot be accurately predicted.

Using available data, the county has determined it will collect $2.8 million less in 2009 than in previous years.

It could be more. Or it could be less.

If it is the latter, county government will suffer, since its budget is based on projections. If this falls short, Kitsap will need to cut programs, or personnel.

The idea of buying local has become a rallying cry. In simplest terms, buying from a local store brings money into county coffers, while the same purchase in Seattle or Tacoma does not.

In this respect, buying a computer from Best Buy in Silverdale helps the local economy, as opposed to buying the same item from Best Buy in Bellevue.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that shopping choices are restricted to Kitsap County, or that buying online takes food out of local mouths.

Washington recently enacted a streamline tax law, which assures that online merchants charge and distribute sales tax to the correct jurisdiction.

While tax distribution is complicated, there is a simple test as to whether Kitsap County will get sales tax revenue from an online sale: If the company operates in Washington, the locals will get a fair cut.

For example, buying a book from Barnesandnoble.com produces revenue, while LLBean.com does not (Amazon.com is a bad example, since it is a Washington company to begin with).

“Once a company develops a local presence we can collect sales taxes and allocate it to the proper jurisdiction,” said Department of Revenue spokesperson Tremaine Smith.

If consumers have doubts about a company, they can see if they are registered, at http://dor.wa.gov/content/doingbusiness.

Buying local goes beyond sales taxes. Charlotte Garrido, who will be sworn in as South Kitsap commissioner today, has made buying local a priority. On a personal level, she will buy a hammer at Ace Hardware because it is locally owned and spend a little more, as opposed to buying at a box store.

Even if Ace Hardware is a chain, local ownership keeps the money circulating in the community.

As commissioner, Garrido said she will encourage the county to buy local goods and services whenever possible, and publish the amount of local money spent with each contract.

Kitsap County Administrative Director Shaun Gabriel is mindful of this and intends to meet with Purchasing Director R’Lene Orr next week to familiarize himself with destination-based taxes.

Even so, people who are willing to pay $11 for a hammer at Ace when it costs $9 at Wal-Mart will balk at paying $15.

Local loyalty only goes so far.

“It’s good to take this into consideration,” Gabriel said. “But the most important thing is your own financial situation.”

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