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Mayor: Council's veto of tax increase 'an educational issue.'

The Port Orchard City Council voted down a resolution on Tuesday night that would allow property tax rates to be raised, even though the money collected would be around the same.

“When I was running for office two years ago, I promised that I would not favor a tax increase without voter approval,” said City Councilman Jim Colebank. “I think to approve that, even though it is an insignificant amount, would be a betrayal of that trust.”

The resolution had the support of Mayor Lary Coppola, who worked with City Treasurer Allen Martin in its development, projecting an increase in sales tax from the annexation of Fred Meyer along with a decrease in property taxes due to a lower assessment.

The resolution is designed to allow the city to operate at its current levels during the next budget cycle.

After the meeting Coppola called the council’s failure to pass the measure “an educational issue, because they didn’t know what they were voting against.”

Class was to start this week, as Coppola first demanded that the our council members who voted against the resolution — Colebank, Fred Chang, Jerry Childs and Fred Olin — attend a previously scheduled meeting of the Finance Committee at 7:30 Friday morning. At that time, Coppola was going to get those council members to “tell us which services to cut and which employees we will need to lay off.”

And even though the mayor works for the council, Coppola said that it was “mandatory” they all attend.

Of the four, Chang said he would try to attend the meeting if he could get off work. Colebank and Childs said they would not attend but requested that the matter be put on the Nov. 18 work study agenda, which would allow public input. Olin said that he (Olin) “was not interested in anything you have to say and will not change my position” before hanging up on the mayor, according to Coppola.

As a result Coppola softened his position, and was scheduled to meet with Chang, Childs and Colebank Thursday, along with Martin, to explain the increase and why it is necessary.

Martin said the resolution could raise tax rates approximately $1 per $100,000 of property value, but that the taxes collected would be about the same due to a decrease in assessed property value.

Martin said if the rate increase was not approved, it would cause a $16,000 revenue shortfall that would have to be made up from other departments.

During the original vote, council members John Clauson, Rob Putaansuu and Carolyn Powers voted in favor of the resolution. All three are members of the Finance Committee and has studied the issue in greater detail, according to Coppola.

Childs said that he made the same promise as Colbank before he was elected, and realized that it might be necessary to break such a pledge in an emergency situation, Even so, he was voting against the resolution because he “didn’t want to be selling out this promise for such a small amount.”

Each council member addressed the matter individually, and by the time Childs spoke it was clear the resolution would not pass.

Powers also acknowledged a reluctance to raise taxes, but stated she would support the measure.

She then asked Childs if he “would be willing to sell out for a larger amount.”

Putaansuu said he was supporting the resolution because it would allow the city to maintain its current services without a significant tax increase.

Coppola said the regularly scheduled meeting of the Finance Committee would take place on Friday, but that it would be a work session that will use information from Thursday’s meeting in order to balance the budget.

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