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Sales on the rise in Kitsap, despite 2001 recession

Despite the economic struggles of other Puget Sound counties and a statewide recession last winter, Kitsap County remained strong, according to recently released state Department of Revenue statistics.

“Other Puget Sound counties, such as King County, boomed bigger over the last decade, and now they are busting bigger,” County Commissioner Chris Endresen said. “Kitsap County is steadier in terms of employment and income.”

Kitsap County retail sales grew by 9.6 percent during the last quarter (September through December) of 2001 compared to the same period of 2000. Taxable retail sales in Kitsap increased by 5.5 percent in the last quarter of 2001 compared to the previous year.

Taxable sales include construction, contracting, manufacturing, transportation, communications, utilities, wholesale, real estate and insurance. Retail trade is defined as consumer purchases, including building materials, hardware, general merchandise, autos, apparel, furnishings, food and drink.

County Commissioner Tim Botkin said the county is meeting its 2002 revenue forecasts, but officials remain wary. Sales tax revenues in the first quarter of 2002 and the last quarter of 2001 came in at predicted levels.

The impact of 2001’s Initiative 747, which caps annual property tax increases at 1 percent, looms for county budget planners.

And the county faces elimination of $480,000 in Initiative 695 “backfill funds,” allocated by the Legislature after the motor vehicles excise tax was eliminated in 2000.

The backfill funds covered about half of the car tab funds the county lost when the Legislature, responding to voter-approved but unconstitutional I-695, implemented $30 license tabs.

“We are going to be looking at that in the next few months,” Endresen said. “I still think we need to monitor the sales taxes.”

Botkin said the county is monitoring what affect I-747 will have on the budget.

Retail sales in Bremerton jumped by almost 19 percent in the recent Department of Revenue statistics. Overall sales were up by more than 14 percent. Officials attributed the rises to the preponderance of auto dealerships in West Bremerton.

“I think the increase in Kitsap was largely driven by car sales and the attractive interest rates offered last winter,” Endresen said. “There were people who were probably waiting to buy a car, but jumped in on the better deals.”

Bremerton’s increase was the third largest among the 50 cities monitored by the Department of Revenue.

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