Port moves forward with plans to levy tax

Posted 7/31/19

After a heated discussion, Port of Port Townsend commissioners decided to move forward with a levy, which voters will see on the ballot in November.

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Port moves forward with plans to levy tax

Posted

After a heated discussion, Port of Port Townsend commissioners decided to move forward with a levy, which voters will see on the ballot in November.

Even though port commissioner Steve Tucker made a motion to rescind the commission’s previous resolution to inform county taxpayers it might levy a tax, it got no second and the motion died.

The original resolution was passed in March. The resolution was meant only to inform citizens that the port might levy a tax. But since a petition signed by more than 2,000 registered voters (8% of registered voters) was submitted to the Jefferson County Auditor on June 19, the levy must be put on the ballot in November.

Without a petition submitted to the county auditor, the port would be able to impose the levy without asking for a vote or even decide not to.

The port’s attorney, Frank Chmelik, originally told port commissioners they would be able to take back their resolution and keep the levy from being put on the ballot. Because of this, port commissioners have been debating for the last month whether or not they should rescind the resolution, or if they should let the public decide whether or not to fund the port further with the tax.

But the county attorney and county auditor informed the port commission the levy will go to a public vote, whether or not the commission rescinded the resolution.

At a meeting on July 25, the port commissioners discussed whether they had the public support they will need for the levy to pass.

“A broad-base, grassroots campaign must be enacted to educate the public on the issue,” said commissioner Steve Tucker, who was reading from a letter that had been sent to him, which he said he agreed with. “With four months to go before the Nov. 4 election, there simply is not the time.”

But Port Commission Chair Bill Putney, who had been on the fence about rescinding the resolution in previous meetings, came out strongly in favor of asking the public for the tax.

“It’s not a secret that the port is strapped,” he said. “Whatever else you think about this, go down and look at the Point Hudson jetty at low tide. I understand that nobody wants to pay additional money in taxes. But public institutions need money to operate.”

Tucker argued that while most port users know the port needs the money, the entire electorate does not.

“You’re preaching to the choir,” he said. “I just don’t see the groundswell of support.”

Tucker was concerned that if the levy did not pass, it would only get harder to pass one in the future.

Commissioner Pete Hanke did not join in the discussion, having stated in previous meetings that he wished the levy to go forward because of the port’s need.

Currently, the port needs millions of dollars for infrastructure repair, not just for the Point Hudson jetty, which could be a $5 million to $6 million project, but also for the Quilcene marina, which needs dredging. The C and D docks at Boat Haven also need repair, among other projects.

“We’ve been putting off dredging for five years,” Putney said. “People can’t get their boats out of that marina.”

Chmelik said he will work with the county attorney to refine the ballot title in the coming election.

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Mike Galmukoff

This is one tax I will be voting for as the economic impact of Port related businesses to the greater community has been well established. Everyone from day workers to businesses who operate inside, and outside of the Port benefit from a Port with a sound, and maintained infrastructure.

The Port Of Port Townsend is the goose that lays the golden egg for dozens of businesses, and literally hundreds of blue collar workers, and their families.

Vote FOR the tax levy.

Thursday, August 1