In our opinion: Government inspector

As the Bremerton City Council considers raising property taxes by one percent to help cover the city’s 2012 expenses, which are detailed in a proposed annual budget document released online Thursday, the public should ask one question at minimum; is the city thin enough?

Just like Kitsap County’s $2.4 million shortfall and the Central Kitsap School District’s $6.8 million gap, the city of Bremerton’s $2.1 million difference is publicly digestible when compared to the tens of millions spent in each layer of government.

The public would do well to ask any of those three taxing agencies if they are cut thin enough. Bremerton and the CKSD will soon look to homeowners and expect them to pay more in property taxes for the same or less in terms of real services in return.

While the Board of Kitsap County Commissioners are loath to raise taxes at all, they have allowed the voters to decide whether or not to grant a property tax hike equivalent to about $13 on the average house in the county in order to provide services for indigent veterans and homeless non-veterans.

As the state government begins to deal with another $2 billion in expected revenue lost to the overall decline in the American economy during a special legislative session which begins at the end of November, counties, cities and school districts can surely count on additional losses in state aid and funding which will further upset their budgets. By law local governments cannot wait for the state to act and the effects to come down the pike, but instead must arrive at a balance by the end of the year.

Shortly, the effect of years of revenue loss and cutting budgets will leave local governments with no choice but to go to their citizens as the only available source of increasing revenue to fund jobs that result in public services – taxes.

The public must be prepared to ask if the services provided by the city, county or school district are equal in return on the tax burden. If not, then the question remains, are they cut thin enough in staffing and payroll?

Go ask the City of Bremerton if they are staffed as low as they can be during the Nov. 1 budget workshop or at the Nov. 16 regular meeting of the city council.  During their Budget Training 101 program, which will take place Nov. 2, ask the CKSD if they too are cut thin enough before asking for more.

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