Council has it right — whatever its reasons

Resolutions made in anticipation of the new year typically change behavior for only a brief time, since too many people let their idealism get in the way of realistic appraisals of their willpower.

Let it not be said that this writer is too idealistic to make and keep a resolution. (He probably is, but don’t tell anyone.)

In 2005, we should probably all strive to be less judgmental. To err is human, therefore this curmudgeon resolves to ignore his own errors during the coming year.

If this worthy goal can be attained, there should remain plenty of opportunity for judging others without increasing the overall level of judgmental behavior in the community.

To ring in the new year, an opinion expressed by a member of the Port Orchard City Council at their meeting this past Monday should be held up for public inspection.

An issue near and dear to many of us — the South Kitsap School District’s upcoming levy proposition — was presented to the council for its endorsement. Councilwoman Rita DiIenno reportedly expressed some concern over the increase in revenue to be collected during the four years of the replacement levy, that is, from 2006 through 2009.

Compared to the revenue collected in 2002 through 2005 by the current levy, the total would increase by 16.59 percent.

She deserves praise for noting that the levy is expressed in terms of the number of dollars to be collected and that the number increases a little in each year of the four-year levy.

Unlike people who think the estimated tax rate is the more important factor in considering whether the levy is reasonable, she apparently recognizes that the amount to be collected — which is what the voters approve, not the tax rate — is the number that should be compared from one year to the next.

However, she seems not to have recognized the impact of increased property valuation in the district that results from new construction.

The estimated tax rates that will appear on the ballot are significantly lower than the actual rates which were needed to collect the levy amounts approved by the voters in 2001, and the expected decline in tax rates does partly result from increases in the assessed values of existing property development.

But the declines in actual tax rates during the four years of the current levy and in the estimated rates for the upcoming four-year levy are also partly the results of adding the value of new construction to the tax base.

If approved by the voters in February, the replacement levy would indeed increase the amount collected each year by a little more than 4 percent.

Approximately one-third of that annual increase would be paid by taxes levied on new construction, if new construction in the next four years continues at an average pace.

So, owners of existing homes and businesses would be approving what is expected to be an annual increase of 2 to 3 percent in the local school levy portion of their property tax.

If other taxing districts had exercised such restraint regarding annual regular property tax increases, voters would have felt no need to use the initiative process to reduce the annual increases that can be levied without their approval.

At the same council meeting, a consulting firm’s report describing some proposed steps to revitalize the Bay Street area in Port Orchard was accepted by the council.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether those steps, or something resembling them, can be achieved.

If the consulting firm did its job adequately, the proposal is both realistic and in line with the expectations of community members who would be most directly affected.

Now we must hope that the city council will consider how best to do its part — that is, figure out how to create conditions which make it likely that private investors will take the risk of actually paying for remodeling and new construction.

It would be nice to see the old area of Port Orchard being used and enjoyed by more people.

It would also be nice to see that area thriving for a more selfish reason: New commercial construction lowers the share we each must pay through property taxes for necessary government functions such as our local schools.

Fans of the state’s growth management laws are fond of claiming that unregulated growth doesn’t pay for itself, but a stagnant local economy pays for even less.

We have already benefited to a small extent from new development during the past few years, but more is needed if we are to grow as a community.

Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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