Kitsap Transit proposition heads to ballot

"On one hand, approval of the three-tenths of one percent sales tax increase requested by Kitsap Transit could restore services cut by Initiative 695, by replacing aging buses, special services to elderly and handicapped riders, and building new park-and-ride facilities.On the other hand, defeat of the increase, also known as Proposition 1, might stimulate commerce in the county by keeping a lower sales tax when - and if - other counties raise their sales taxes, according to Dave Ellingson, chair of Concerned Kitsap Citizens, which opposes the transit hike.Kitsap Transit's requested increase of three-tenths of one percent, from 8.2 to 8.5, would work out to an additional three cents per $10, or 30 cents per $100 spent on goods and services in the county.The new rate would also be only one-tenth of a percent higher than the 8.4 percent sales taxes in Puyallup and Fife, big auto dealership towns. One-tenth will probably not make that much of a difference, Ellingson conceded. But he added, We're situated on a peninsula, we're isolated. It's hard to get any businesses attracted to the area.If we raise the tax it will make us higher than surrounding counties, so that if you have disposable income to buy a car ... you'll take your business elsewhere.Ellingson added that keeping the tax at 8.2 percent potentially would give Kitsap County an advantage over surrounding areas with higher sales taxes, such as King County. Ellingson said a November ballot proposal there could increase the sales tax from 8.6 to 8.8 in some cities, such as Seattle and Federal Way.Ellingson also takes issue with the fact that the tax affects everyone in the county, yet transit services are not available to the more suburban and rural areas.The loss of $10.2 million from the passage of Initiative 695 caused cuts in such service, countered Dick Hayes, executive director of Kitsap Transit.Along with the ACCESS service that provided transportation in outlying areas to handicapped and elderly riders, KT cut back on the worker-driver buses to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and van pool services. The worker-driver buses are driven by shipyard workers who are on our payroll while they drive for us to pick up other (shipyard) employees for the county's primary employer.The service still has 40-plus vans in the van pool service that serves a number of military employees in outlying areas, Hayes said.That's a reduction from the 100 formerly used.The cut in funding forced the KT to reevaluate its services and practices to become more efficient, Hayes added. We felt it was incumbent upon us to find ways to save money and do things more efficiently, he said.The public does like small buses, and we run them in cities such as Silverdale and Poulsbo, he said.The three-tenths increase in the sales tax, or $7.5 million in revenue, would go a long way toward restoring many of the services that were eliminated or cut back, he said.Our routed performance over all is 28 passengers per hour this year so far, compared to a little more than 28 last year, Hayes said.Their performance record is comparable to other transit services of similar size, such as those in Olympia or Vancouver, he added.The efficiency is there. Our routed performance has always been above average for this size service. We're not going to carry the same numbers as Metro in Seattle, he said. We felt it was fair to ask for three-fourths of what was lost, said Hayes.What (Ellingson) is objecting to is the level of subsidy for all transit. We get a good recovery (or return in fare revenue for our operating services) . The best recovery in the state is Metro at 26 or 27 percent. Kitsap's is over 20 percent, Hayes said."

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