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Parks levy headed to voters

It took two attempts, but the Bremerton City Council finally voted to put the first phase of Mayor Cary Bozeman's three-phased Neighborhoods Now initiative on the Nov. 6 general election ballot at its Wednesday night meeting.

At the Aug. 1 meeting, council members voted to postpone the decision due the absences of three members with Councilman Adam Brockus presenting the only opposition to that decision.

However, with Councilwomen Dianne Robinson and Wendy Priest and Councilman Mike Shepherd absent, the remainder of the council voted unanimously to put the property tax levy lid lift on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Robinson and Priest are the only two council members who did not cast votes on the issue.

The city's estimated regular property tax levy rate for 2008 is $1.9311 per $1,000 of assessed value, and if the levy lid lift is approved by the voters in November, that rate would go up to $2.12 per $1,000, Finance Director Laura Lyon explained at the Aug. 1 meeting.

"I'm happy the council decided to do that," Bozeman said Thursday morning. "It's always been our plan that would begin with the revitalization of downtown and then take the effort to the neighborhoods."

The city has a deteriorating parks system and a street grid that needs additional support, he said.

"We have a new neighborhood support system that is going to help people keep up their properties," he said. "We'll be spending the next four to five years upgrading critical areas in our neighborhoods."

Now that the council has placed the levy lift on the ballot, Bozeman said between now and the November election, the city will be outlining the details of the proposal to voters in hopes of its passage.

"We have to be accountable to the voters with what we will be doing," Bozeman said. "I think if we do that, it will pass."

Although Councilwoman Carol Arends said there are some details of the plan that need to be worked out, she supports it going to the voters.

"I think it's good to have the public vote on this," Arends said.

However, between now and the election, priorities need to be set for the long list of parks projects being considered, she said.

"With construction costs escalating, I think prioritization is a good idea, so if this passes, we can see if there is money available to do some things," Arends said.

Funding for Phase II of the initiative would come from a $20 increase in car tabs, which would have to be approved by the votersIn addition to the increase in car tabs, the city will contribute $300,000 for five years from its real estate excise tax fund, the street fund will be funded at its 2007 level of $600,000 per year and fuel tax and parking tax revenues are expected to chip in a combined $930,000 annually.

Phase III of the project will be the completion of the boardwalk, which is estimated at $7.3 million.

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