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Council boots BKAT, overcomes budget 'Fred Factor'

Last week, the efforts of two Port Orchard City Council members named Fred changed the city's budget landscape by torpedoing a tax rate increase that was intended to keep services at current levels. On Wednesday night, the council met to discuss how to meet the budget challenges brought about by the previous action.

The situation required the city to cut $16,000 in order to balance the budget. This was accomplished by re-estimating the amount of utility tax from newly annexed property that had not been previously considered, according to City Treasurer Allan Martin.

Like all municipal budgets this is something of a gamble, since the ability to fulfill commitments depends on revenue projections that may fall short. Said City Councilman John Clauson “There is a budget, and there is reality. What we have is how it will look if everything comes in like it should.”

The council discussed one substantial cut, the intention to not renew the city's contract with Bremerton Kitsap Access Television (BKAT) which costs an estimated $7900 a year. However, it reallocated the money to flowers and web design.

According to Mayor Lary Coppola, BKAT is not willing to negotiate this cost. Furthermore, there are indications these rates will increase. Coppola suggested moving meeting coverage from TV to the Internet, which he said would lower cost and increase flexibility.

“I was surprised to hear that Internet use has a higher saturation than cable TV in Port Orchard,” Coppola said. “We can put the meetings on our own server, and allow people to see the meetings when they want.”

Council members determined several options for camera operation, from existing staff who can run the equipment as part of their regular positions. 

Councilman Jim Colebank said he would vote against terminating the BKAT contract, since he knew of several people who used that channel as their only access to city business. He acknowledged that his vote would make little difference, since he expected the contract to be terminated.

Other council members feel the public can be trained to use the Internet to view meetings.

“I think we are spending $7500 for the benefit of ten people,” said Clauson. 

The council also discussed the disposition of a projected $65,000 in lodging tax revenues. with each member suggesting specific amounts to allocate to different agencies.

At the Nov. 24 meeting the council addressed 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.

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 follow-up 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 after the meeting. “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 was required. 

Powers was on vacation for the Nov. 24 meeting, allowing the two Freds themselves to defeat the measure. Powers supported the measure in the past, her presence last week would have presumably approved the tax increase. 

On Wednesday night Powers had returned from her vacation in Mexico. Olin, however, was on his own Mexican trip. 

At a recent study session, Putaansuu referred to 'the Fred Factor' as a force on the council. In response, Olin brought a book to last 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. 

But Coppola didn't see this difference as a positive thing. 

“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.

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