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First, annexation has to make sense
Adopting countywide land-use planning policies related to annexations by cities might be easier if there weren’t impacts on revenues available to each jurisdiction.
Implementing the policies would be easier if there weren’t significant impacts on the tax burdens of residents who are annexed into cities.
These impacts on taxes and revenues won’t go away, so our elected officials need to understand them and act accordingly.
Policies that seem to require cities to annex land within their urban growth areas appear to be unrealistic, since there is only one way for a city to ignore the desires of people who would be annexed.
When residents in unincorporated areas oppose a city’s proposal for annexation, they usually have the opportunity to vote against it — either because the city calls an election or because residents gather signatures to force a referendum.
There is an exception to this general rule, but using it to go around voter opposition would probably not make the elected officials popular with anyone.
In South Kitsap especially, the way to avoid letting voters decide if they want to be annexed into Port Orchard would try anyone’s patience.
The way to get around the voters is through an interlocal agreement with the county, the city, and the fire district as parties to the agreement.
If the fire district commissioners enter into the agreement, the annexation by Port Orchard could proceed without letting the residents in the annexed area vote on the issue.
If the fire district refuses to agree, the residents could exercise the right of referendum by gathering enough signatures to put the question on the ballot.
Since annexation by Port Orchard would not affect services provided by South Kitsap Fire and Rescue, the fire district commissioners shouldn’t take away the right to vote by entering into a meaningless agreement with the city and county.
There is nothing for an interlocal agreement to resolve when Port Orchard annexes land in the fire district.
Assuming our elected officials don’t want to run roughshod over the voters by using this interlocal agreement procedure for annexation, they need to figure out how to make annexation attractive.
And if the county commissioners want cities to pursue annexation of residential property in their urban growth areas, they need to cancel the revenue sharing agreement for all Kitsap cities.
Residential areas aren’t usually the source of enough revenue to pay for government services. People living in those areas pay enough in taxes, but their tax payments are made to a large extent when doing business in commercial areas.
Port Orchard has already pulled out of the revenue sharing agreement, having learned when annexing the McCormick Woods residential area just how bad a deal it is.
In a residential area that has already been developed, the county’s revenue comes mainly from the current expense and county road levies — neither of which is reduced when a city annexes the area.
Only in the year of annexation does any part of the county’s road levy revenue go to the city. In subsequent years this levy rises as usual until its tax rate reaches the maximum allowed, and none of it goes to the city.
Expecting the cities to provide services to a residential area while also paying the county 150 percent of the road levy revenue that had been collected in that area in the year before annexation is expecting too much.
As cities annex land, the road levy tax rate rises, so people who have not yet been annexed experience a higher property tax burden.
If cities annex enough land, the tax burdens of people in the unincorporated areas would be great enough because of the county road levy that they would face less of a tax increase by being annexed into a city.
A road levy that is driven up to or near its maximum tax rate would be an incentive to join a city, even when the city can impose taxes that drive up our utility bills.
A planning policy that says cities ought to annex won’t change fiscal reality, but changing the cities’ obligations under the revenue sharing agreement could help achieve what words alone cannot.
Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.