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'Fred Factor' stymies budget process

The combined efforts of two Port Orchard City Councilmembers named Fred has changed the city’s budget landscape, unfolding at the council’s Nov. 24 meeting.

The council was voting on a “substantial need” resolution that would allow them to raise the city’s portion of property taxes that can be collected in 2010, to 101 percent of the current rate. The money raised would be used in two areas, to maintain services and provide a fund to be used in case of an emergency.

The increase to property owners would be about $1 per $100,000 of assessed value.

But the opposition of two council members, Fred Chang and Fred Olin, defeated the measure.

Instead, the motion passed only allowed the city to tax residents at its current rate.

Due to the lower property assessments, tax money collected will actually be lower than 2009 levels. This will cause a shortfall of approximately $16,000 that will need to be cut from other programs, according to City Treasurer Allan Martin.

Martin, along with Mayor Lary Coppola, has said the levy rate increase was necessary in order to maintain current service levels.

A similar motion declaring substantial need was defeated Nov. 10, with councilmembers Jerry Childs and Jim Colebank joining the two Freds in opposition to the measure.

Councilmembers Rob Putaansuu, Carolyn Powers and John Clauson voted in favor.

At that point, Coppola and Martin met with Childs, Colbank and Chang to provide budget details, with Coppola stating the opposing votes were not aware of the issue.

Childs and Colbank then reversed their vote.

“I had made a campaign promise to not raise taxes,” Childs said. “But since less money was being collected, it didn’t feel like a raise to me.”

Olin did not attend the meeting, saying he had made up his mind and would not vote in favor of the measure.

“This was a matter of principle,” he said Wednesday. “There are a lot of people who are living paycheck to paycheck. I don’t think city services are in danger.”

For this particular vote, a five-member majority is required.

Since Powers was on vacation for the most recent meeting, the two Freds were able to defeat the measure.

Since Powers supported the measure in the past, her presence this week would have presumably approved the tax increase.

At a recent study session, Putaansuu referred to “the Fred Factor” as a force on the council.

"I was dismayed to see Mr. Chang and Mr. Olin put their personal philosophy ahead of the future needs of the citizens of Port Orchard," Coppola said in an e-mail.

Olin brought a book to Tuesday’s meeting, titled “The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary.” The book, written by Mark Sanborn, defines a “Fred” as someone who makes a difference.

The city council will hold a special work study session to discuss the proposed 2010 Budget at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 at City Hall.

The meeting is open to the public.

For more information call (360) 876-4407.

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