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Bremerton tax revenue down, but it’s not all bad

Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman - Courtesy photo
Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman
— image credit: Courtesy photo

While Bremerton tax revenues from retail sales fell slightly below the average Washington city from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Department of Revenue (DOR) Web site, Mayor Cary Bozeman said the city is not invulnerable.

“We’ve seen an increase in our sales tax revenues over the past four, five, six years,” Bozeman said. “It’s been a nice gradual growth of 4 or 5 percent, but we sometimes think we are less vulnerable than some cities because A, we have a pretty good-sized work force here maintained by the Navy and B, our biggest sales tax producer is the automobile industry. People who work in the shipyard were not afraid of losing their jobs and they were still buying cars.”

This self-maintained workforce helped Bremerton’s revenue numbers stay up throughout most of 2008, Bozeman said, but it did not last.

“We kept seeing a bit of an increase, but then when we tracked it in late November and December, we saw a terrible drop-off,” he said. “I think that is when the economy finally bottomed out.”

The total tax revenue generated in Bremerton in the final quarter of 2007 reached $202 million whereas in 2008 that income dropped to $178 million, according to DOR. While this 12 percent drop is substantial, Bozeman is optimistic.

“We think by fall we’ll see sales tax revenues climb again,” he said.

While the news is positive, things are still not going to be back to the way they were before this economic collapse, Bozeman said.

“We think the numbers will still be below the 2008 numbers,” he said. “When we start doing our budget for 2010, it will reflect the fact that we are still expecting a slow economy, which means we will be downsizing our workforce. By how much, no one knows yet. We’ll have to see, but I don’t think it will be significant.”

The economy is affecting the state and counties as well as cities, Bozeman said.

“Nobody is immune to this bad economy,” he added. “Especially in a state like this where half of your income is based on commerce, people buying things, big TVs, cars and things like that. People just aren’t buying things and they are watching their credit levels.”

While this all makes for a bad economic situation, Bozeman said there are some good things too.

“People aren’t charging things with credit cards,” he said. “Which I think in some ways is a good thing. I think you are going to see less people willing to have debt. I think more people are going to start saving.”

Much like the times of the Great Depression, Bozeman said, we will see a change in people’s habits.

“I think you are going to see some behavioral changes in people, just like we did with people who lived through the Depression,” he said. “Those people didn’t borrow any money, they didn’t go out to eat. They saved and cooked at home and I think we are going to see a reversion back to a simpler life with people saving more money and not wanting to create debt.”

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