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Law, justice tax won't make 2008 ballot

Citing a stagnant economy and funding alternatives, library and law enforcement officials have decided not to ask voters to approve two tax hikes this November.

On Feb. 12, the Law and Justice Council, chaired by Clallam County Commissioner Mike Chapman, voted against placing a two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase on the 2008 ballot. A subcommittee had recommended approval.

"There is a state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development report dealing with local government funding options for state required activities prepared for the (Washington) Legislature," Chapman said. "So given the fact that we are doing all right with revenue in 2008 and that this report might encourage lawmakers to help counties fund what they require counties to do, we opted to hold off on asking voters for the sale tax increase."

The Legislature will begin its next regular session in January 2009, at which time the biennium budget will be created.

"Depending on what lawmakers do with this report, we may not need to bring this topic up again in 2009," Chapman said. "But for now, all we can do is monitor our own budget while rallying legislators to help out on the local application of state mandates."

The report covers county financial health throughout the state, ways to help counties with that burden and alternatives to how counties set up their governance. It can be found at www.cted.wa.gov/site/1044/default.aspx.

"The key point the law and justice group looked at was financing that would go directly to cities and counties, which would be huge as it removes the restrictions on how that money is used and would add to our local resources," Sequim Chief of Police Robert Spinks said.

The report puts forward nine proposals for the Legislature to review, three for government efficiency, four provide counties with authority to become more efficient and two cover fiscal health. The fiscal health proposals would provide a revenue package directed toward cities and counties.

"The downside is this might take awhile to get back to the counties and cities, but the law and justice group didn't want to forward a tax increase if there were options out there still, which I fully support," Spinks said. "The counties need this more than the cities because of their dependence on property tax, a revenue increase that is controlled at 1 percent per year."



Library

The library system also may back off from its proposed increase to its operation levy.

A citizens' advisory committee, which researched the possible levy increase for the North Olympic Library System, will make a presentation at the library board meeting at 4 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Port Angeles Branch, 2210 S. Peabody St.

"I believe they are going to propose deferring any work on a levy lid lift for some period of time; the details will be presented at that board meeting," library system director Paula Barnes said. "The economical environment right now is not the best time to ask people for an increase in library funding and the committee also recognized that I am still new and they wanted to give me time to see where I could find ways to hold the line a little while longer."

The board hired Barnes to direct the library system in June 2007.

The levy lid lift would help fund library operations countywide, possibly expanding hours and stock.

A separate citizens' committee looking into a bond for a new or expanded Sequim Library has not come to a consensus, according to Barnes.

"The group is facing a decision of what to recommend to the board," Barnes said. "Do we do a remodel now and wait a few years before going for a bigger branch or do we go for a bigger branch sooner?"

The proposal from the

Sequim branch expansion group is expected after it meets at 3:30 p.m. March 4 at the Sequim Library.

An early timeline had placed the levy lid lift on the August 2008 ballot and the Sequim expansion bond on the November 2008 ballot. However, with new recommendations coming down from the groups, the dates likely will change.

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