With I-976 approved statewide, including Kitsap County voting for the $30 car tab initiative, Bainbridge Island’s budget will have a $400,000-$600,000 hole in it for road and related projects.
How will the city deal with this?
Bainbridge Comment posed this question to the nine candidates running for city council. Now that there are four winners, making up a majority, BC is reposting their verbatim answers on this issue.
Council Member-Elect Kirsten Hytopoulos
If all car tab revenues for roads were lost, the city would lose $400,000 a year, which is a substantial amount but not so significant that it could not be paid out of general fund dollars going forward, albeit in combination with some other reduction in service. It should be noted that we will also lose the increase in car tab fees which was set to be enacted this fall and was earmarked for traffic calming and marketing BI Ride. Whether or not we lose the car tab fee revenue, the city needs to be rethinking the funding of road improvements, including non-motorized infrastructure, which is an integral part of a “complete street.”
One place we need to look for replacement or new funding is in our transportation impact fees. We currently charge new construction substantially lower impact fees than do neighboring communities like Poulsbo. By addressing concurrency and budgeting for improvements aimed at mitigating traffic, we could greatly increase the amount. And of course, there is the question of budget priorities and making “complete streets” a priority. During my first term on council, we were faced with a serious and longstanding budget shortfall. We balanced the books by following a firm set of priorities. Pulling funds from “nice to have” to “need to have” is often the best way to proceed when expected funding dries up.
Incumbent Kol Medina
The only realistic answer is that we replace the lost funds with general fund revenue. In other words, we just suck it up and cover the lost revenue with our other, current revenue sources. This will be hard in that it will squeeze the budget and curtail some other initiatives that we’d like to get off the ground, but it is doable.
We could ask the residents to approve a levy increase or sales tax increase. But, again, I don’t think we should ask the residents to increase taxes on themselves to pay for core government services like roads (unless there is truly no other alternative).
Incumbent Leslie Schneider
If we are to keep the same levels of service on road repair that we have now, the funding will need to come from the general fund. This will not be a crisis in the near term because the city is in good financial condition with reserves. However, it is not a long term solution, and there will consequently be less funding available for other initiatives, such as multi-modal projects in the Capital Improvement Projects list, or climate change mitigation, or other Council ambitions in the future. Regardless of the outcome of I-976, I support adding transportation access fees specifically to fund multi-modal infrastructure as an additional revenue source.
Council Member-elect Michael Pollock
I would re-prioritize funds earmarked for the Suzuki project and the police station. As voters may recall, we rejected a bond for a $15 million new police station by a 3-1 majority, one of the most lopsided votes in the history of Bainbridge Island. I am still unclear why the current council (including my opponent) took that vote as a cue to work-around the will of the voters using councilmanic bonds and other devices not requiring voter approval to push forward a new police station that will cost $20 million…and counting. The taxpayer costs for the Suzuki project are not clear, but may exceed $10 million. So a realignment of priorities would be required to help pay for transportation. See also the discussion on concurrency towards the end of this questionnaire, for some other options for funding transportation improvements.