Opinion

Silverdale cityhood only confuses things

Just when it seemed that the issues involved in a Kitsap County Rural Library District property tax lid lift were becoming less complicated, the perennial boosters of Silverdale incorporation claim to be on the verge of a successful effort to form a new city.

It’s hard enough for the library district to deal with an existing city when putting together a proposed tax increase to fund the construction of new library buildings in Silverdale and Kingston.

Trying to deal with a city that doesn’t exist is nearly impossible.

Once Port Orchard’s mayor and council grasped the nature of the lid lift proposal, they began asking what would be done about the area served by the Kitsap Regional Library branch in Port Orchard.

The KRL branch libraries in the city of Port Orchard and the unincorporated area called Manchester serve people living in South Kitsap, not just city residents or those living within a stone’s throw of Manchester.

Port Orchard’s mayor has said that his conversations with the library district’s leaders cause him to believe that a better proposal for the use of additional tax revenue is forthcoming.

For South Kitsap residents living outside Port Orchard, having the city’s elected officials seek a better proposal makes it seem possible that there would be a fair return from the taxes paid to the library district.

Having the lion’s share of additional revenue from a lid lift go to fund new libraries in Silverdale and Kingston while comparatively little would help fund a new library in Port Orchard hardly looked like a fair deal.

Perceptions matter, since the library district cannot get the additional tax revenue without voter approval of a property tax lid lift.

Voters in north and central Kitsap may be so happy with the proposal to build new libraries for them that they overwhelm any South Kitsap reluctance to accept such a deal.

But counting on overwhelming support from favored areas is not a risk-free strategy. Lukewarm support in trying economic times may be the more likely outcome.

So, Port Orchard and South Kitsap may be moving toward a resolution of the objections to the initial proposal.

Then the people who want to form a new city pop up to claim they will be successful in their campaign to incorporate Silverdale — and this time they really mean it.

A new city of Silverdale might exist by 2012, according to the community members who yearn for a city of their own.

Incorporation would occur just in time to allow the new city’s residents to watch the construction of a new library in Silverdale — owned by the library district and funded mostly by the library district’s taxpayers.

Maybe they can celebrate the official date of incorporation and turn the first shovel of dirt at the library building site all at the same time.

For the rest of us, though, this timing is problematic.

As an unincorporated area in the county, Silverdale is in the library district — so taxpayers in Silverdale pay the library district’s taxes just like the rest of us.

But upon incorporation, the territory within a new city of Silverdale would no longer be within the Kitsap County Rural Library District — so the new city’s residents would not pay the library district’s tax.

It would be a strange situation. The new library building would neither be owned nor funded by the new city.

As the owner, the library district certainly wouldn’t leave the building vacant — but the city and its residents would have no obligation to pay anything to the library district.

Silverdale would need voter approval to annex the new city into the library district so that the library district’s tax could be collected within the city limits.

What assurance can anyone give that Silverdale residents would end up paying any significant part of the cost of building and operating the new library?

There is no Silverdale city government until incorporation; so who can make any promises to voters who may be asked by the library district to approve a tax increase this November?

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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