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Heads up: More tax votes coming

Post by David Seago on Jan. 14, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
January 15, 2010 8:13 am

Despite the lousy economy, Metro Parks Tacoma and Pierce Transit are both readying tax proposals for the voters this year.  Neither has much choice, I gather.

The school districts going to the polls in February and March are mostly seeking to renew expiring multi-year special levies. Their timing is dictated by the calendar, not the economy.

Not so for Metro Parks and Pierce Transit.  Parks officials are planning a levy lid-lift proposal on April 27.  Pierce Transit will likely seek a sales tax increase in August or November.

Both agencies are hoping to stave off dire budget cuts, but their circumstances differ.

Metro Parks is squeezed because of its status as a so-called junior taxing district, and by Initiative 747, the Tim Eyman-inspired limit on property-tax increases. Although voters 20 years ago authorized Metro Parks to collect a levy of 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value,  the park district currently collects only 46 cents per $1,000.

The district already cut its budget by $1 million this year, but next year its budget reserves will be gone. The April measure, which needs only majority approval, would restore the park district’s ability to collect the 75-cent rate.

Parks officials told citizens at informational meetings this month that an opinion survey conducted in the fall  suggests that despite the economy, voters would be receptive to lifting the levy lid.

Pierce Transit is more directly hurt by the recession, which has sent sales tax revenues plummeting. The agency gets 73 percent of its revenue from a local six-tenths of one percent sales tax.

The agency cut bus service by 5 percent in July, but far more brutal cuts will be necessary if it can’t find more revenue.  PT held one round of community meetings last fall to  “envision what Pierce Transit system should be in the future.” (Details here) Another round will be held in April and May to outline service options.

PT commissioners are expected to adopt a “preferred plan” in July.  Odds are that it will include a tax pitch. Even if voters say yes, PT officials will have to make some ough choices. If the measure fails, the results will be ugly for folks who depend on buses to get around.

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