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Kitsap Transit board to consider asking for tax hike

"Even if voters approve a three-tenths of a percent sales tax increase this September, bus fares would still cost more than they did in 1999.The Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners will decide whether to ask voters to approve the sales tax increase at its June 7 meeting.If voters agree to the sales tax increase, bus fares might come down, but probably not to pre-Initiative 695 rates.We were presuming that they would come down somewhat, but I don't think we would ever propose they come down to what they were, said Dick Hayes, executive director of Kitsap Transit.Because the Legislature only allocated one-time funding for transit services this year, Kitsap Transit authorities say they need the sales tax increase to provide ongoing operations and capital projects funding.The tax increase is expected to bring Kitsap Transit's budget back to pre-Initiative 695 levels, allowing the agency to revive cut services, including Access service.According to Kitsap Transit officials, the agency lost 43 percent of its annual budget when Initiative 695 passed. The three-tenths of a percent sales tax increase would provide $7.5 million in funding for capital projects and operations.Our proposal is to bring all (services) back, and that probably also includes downtown shuttles for Bremerton and Winslow, Hayes said. Three-tenths of a percent would return limited service to full service and express service.Kitsap Transit officials will also re-examine the way those services are provided. There may be a better way to do some small pieces of service. Take the connection to Purdy where we connect with Pierce Transit. There may be a way to run that with a mixture of routed and Access connections. We've done it with Access part of the time and routed some of the time, and, as we look at it, it looks like it might be better to run routed at rush hour and Access the rest of the time, Hayes said.Though the tax increase proposal could still be vulnerable to initiatives like 695, Hayes said Kitsap Transit must move forward to get funding. We can't just stand around and wait for (Tim) Eyman to pass initiatives, he said. Hayes expects the tax proposal to provide an on-going source of income for Kitsap Transit. If there's a safer kind of funding, I don't know what it is, he said.The Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners is scheduled to meet at 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, June 7, at the Silverdale Community Center."

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