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Transit officials optimistic about tax proposal
"With a proposed three-tenths of one percent sales tax increase apparently on its way to voter approval as of Wednesday, Kitsap Transit director Richard Hayes was feeling quite a bit better about the bus agency's future.But he added, We do need to be thoughtful, though optimistic. It's not a done deal.According to Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn, at least 6,956 absentee ballots were to be counted Friday, May 11. More might still be delivered with valid postmarks, she noted.But by Wednesday morning, the Auditor's Office had counted 28,044 yes votes (50.51 percent) and 27,473 (49.49 percent) no votes.Flynn said about 54 percent of the uncounted ballots would have to be no votes to swing the election.Ballots were mailed in late April to 132,280 registered voters in the county.We're being cautious, Hayes said. If we have a party it will be at 4 p.m. Friday (after all the votes are counted).A similar measure went down to defeat last September.Proposition 1 would restore $7.8 million of the $10.3 million lost as a result of 1999's Initiatve 695. The measure, and subsequent legislative action, replaced the state's motor vehicle excise tax with a $30 fee, putting a huge dent in KT's budget.The new funding will allow Transit to restore lost service.We'll start with ACCESS. It's pretty much spring-loaded to go. We'll probably need 10 new ... drivers to put the service back. They'll probably be the first hired, said Hayes.Then we'll move to the routed buses, but we can't be in as big a rush because we need some more buses, he added.The tax won't go into effect until October. The Kitsap Transit board must formally approve it after voters five their OK, then the state tax people have to collect it, Hayes said.He added, Hopefully the state and region will get the chance to put together a measure giving an opportunity to augment capital for improvements.Flynn thinks the vote is going better this time because Transit took a cue from last September.They were more sensitive to the fact that voters need to know the issues. It was part of the reason they chose to do the vote-by-mail election, so they could assure voters that each and every one could voice their opinion, she said.Even though the count is early, there's a strong indication it's going to pass, she said.Flynn said she was pleased to see the measure passing because so many low-income and disabled residents rely on it as their only means of transportation. Her family has been a Transit patron in the past.One of my sons had a terminal illness. He was able to continue to work for a while because of Transit, she said.The son, Joel Meade, who died two years ago at the age of 27, had a rare brain disorder with symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.She said he went to work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard as long as he could.Because of KT, He not only had transportation, but the drivers were so helpful to people with disabilities. They really are wonderful, she said.She said turnout for this special election, including the uncounted votes, is about 47 percent.Prior to the change in state law that allowed for all voters to participate in mail-in elections, turnout would have been about 25 percent, Flynn said.But it's not over until it's over.Questionable ballots will be canvassed May 24. The vote will be certified at 3 p.m. Friday, May 25. "