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Council delays ballot decision
Before Wednesday night's Bremerton City Council meeting even started, Council vice president Brad Gehring suggested that the council delay its decision on placing a proposed property tax levy lid lift on the Nov. 6 ballot.
With only six council members present, Gehring said an important decision like the proposed levy lid lift should be made by the full council if at all possible.
Councilwomen Wendy Priest and Dianne Robinson along with Council President Will Maupin were not in attendance.
Of the six council members present only Councilman Adam Brockus voted against the decision to postpone the decision to the Aug. 8 council meeting.
Although the majority of the council agreed when the issue was presented at the regular council meeting, that didn't stop Mayor Cary Bozeman from attempting to force the council's hand.
"Our job is to bring you a proposal for your consideration," Bozeman told the council as Finance Director Laura Lyon and Parks Director Wyn Birkenthal outlined the details of the proposed parks levy, which is the first phase of the mayor's three-phased Neighborhoods Now initiative.
"Now is the time to take is the time to take the revitalization and bring it out to the neighborhoods," Lyon said.
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, which is an increase of $0.1889, she said.
"That amounts to approximately $36 per year for the average homeowner," Lyon said.
Bremerton resident William North, who serves on the city's parks and recreation commission, said the parks board has formally given its support for the proposed levy.
"I believe this is critical to the overall revitalization of Bremerton," North said.
Bremerton Chamber of Commerce executive director Sylvia Klattman said the chamber's board of directors has also thrown its support behind the parks levy.
Even with that show of support for the levy, Councilman Cecil McConnell said he believes the voters in his district will have a hard time supporting it.
"There are things that we would support in Phase II, but there's nothing for Phase I," McConnell said.
Phase II would fund streets, sidewalks and bicycle trails throughout the city through a citywide $20 increase in vehicle licensing fees.
"What am I going to tell my constituents?" McConnell asked. "It's going to be a hard sell."
Bozeman stepped to the podium to respond to McConnell's concerns and offered a slightly different spin on the potential support for the parks levy.
"I believe a lot of citizens will support what's best for the city overall, not just their district," Bozeman said.
The city's parks are used by residents from all across the city and everyone will benefit from improved parks regardless of where they live, Bozeman said.
"I would like to postpone the decision for one week," Councilwoman Carol Arends said, adding that there are still questions that need to be answered before the proposal is submitted to the voters.
"The reason I am going to support Carol's motion because we have some council members missing and it is important to give them the opportunity," Councilman Mike Shepherd said.
If the council doesn't make a decision at its Aug. 8, a special meeting might be convened because of the Aug. 14 deadline to put the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.