Opinion

Is SKIA worth annexing by the city?

Residents of both the city of Port Orchard and the unincorporated areas of South Kitsap should not ignore the discussions about annexation of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) by the city of Bremerton.

The idea of annexing the SKIA into one or the other city has been kicked around for many years by the county, the cities of Port Orchard and Bremerton, and the Port of Bremerton (which owns a lot of the land within the SKIA).

It is one part of the larger issue raised by annexation into a city or incorporation of a new city within Kitsap, since each such step takes potential revenue sources from the county government and gives them to the city.

Right now, the distribution of tax revenue is similar to the distribution of our population, so the county government can generally afford to provide an appropriate level of service compared to the cities.

Roughly two-thirds of Kitsap County residents live in unincorporated areas, and approximately two-thirds of local sales tax revenue is collected in the unincorporated areas and paid to the county.

The same is true for the property tax base. Almost two-thirds of taxable property is located in unincorporated areas of the county.

Leaving aside the question whether total revenue is adequate, the distribution of the total among the governments of the cities and county is something our residents need to keep in mind.

If a disproportionate amount of tax revenue goes to a city rather than to the county, residents in surrounding unincorporated areas may see an unwelcome difference.

The Growth Management Act (GMA) tends to put people and business-related revenue sources into cities by limiting the “urban growth areas” and the kinds of development that can occur outside them.

In addition to this GMA tendency, cities typically desire to annex areas where the added revenue exceeds the cost of providing urban services.

Eventually, the result is to make it likely that residents of unincorporated areas will find that they need to ask a city to annex them in order to maintain an acceptable level of service.

It isn’t something that normally happens overnight, but each significant step along the way deserves our attention. Ignoring the direction things are going may limit your options when you can ignore it no longer.

Finding yourself trapped in a “bedroom community” with few sources of tax revenue other than the property tax on your home could be an unpleasant situation.

Similarly, living in a city with few opportunities for commercial and industrial development needed to provide tax revenue for an urban level of services is not an attractive outcome.

The SKIA contains a large part of the available land that is suitable for commercial and industrial development in South Kitsap, so it matters to residents of Port Orchard and the county when Bremerton expresses any intention to annex it.

Similarly, the Silverdale area contains much of the property where sales tax revenue supporting county government is collected, so it matters when anyone suggests incorporating Silverdale as a new city.

Imagine what could be a nightmare scenario: Silverdale incorporates and Bremerton annexes the SKIA, leaving Port Orchard and the unincorporated areas of South Kitsap with few sources of revenue to pay for their government services.

Would it do you much good at that point to ask Port Orchard to annex your neighborhood?

Where, other than the SKIA, would you suggest that commercial and industrial development occur in order to support your government? And, what is the likelihood that the GMA restrictions on “urban sprawl” would allow similar development in another area?

Mayor Lary Coppola of Port Orchard has suggested that the interlocal agreement contemplated by the cities and county for the past decade should be negotiated to provide for appropriate revenue sharing from a developed SKIA along with the necessary expenditures for infrastructure.

This could be a way to avoid both an almost endless struggle to see who gets the SKIA as well as further delays in building the infrastructure needed for development.

If the Port of Bremerton commissioners agree to annexation by Bremerton without such an agreement with the county and Port Orchard, could the port and city afford the infrastructure needed for development? Apparently not, or there wouldn’t have been a long discussion about cooperation among the participants.

Without a revenue-sharing agreement, what reason could there be for the county and Port Orchard to participate in any significant way in constructing the SKIA infrastructure?

Would you, as a resident of Port Orchard or unincorporated areas of South Kitsap, like to have your taxes used mainly for the benefit of Bremerton?

Having economic growth and the jobs that go with it would be nice, and so would having the commercial and industrial tax base to support the governments where we live.

Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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