Monthly Archives: November 2009

Bremerton Voters Could Block Property Tax Increase (But Not the Rate Hike)

Anyone who would want to overturn Bremerton’s potential spending increases should contact city and other sources for specifics about the rules for a referendum. What we have here are the basics as I understand them.

Here’s the outline:

  • If you want to start a referendum on the city council’s decision to have the city’s utilities pay more to the general fund, you can. You can kill that.
  • Should the council decide to raise rates at its meeting on Dec. 2, your referendum will have no impact on that. Your rates will still go up.
  • If you want to start a referendum on the property tax increase the council passed, you can.

The points here were the result of a conversation I had with Roger Lubovich, city attorney. I had also called the Municipal Research and Services Center, which looks into laws for cities. Lubovich and I talked Wednesday night after the meeting. At that point he was under the correct impression on the first two points, but said he thought there was no referendum possible on the property tax. After looking into it further and talking about it with a representative at MRSC, he determined Thursday the property tax measure actually is eligible for referendum.

Point One: The state treats the payment in lieu of taxes, aka PILOT, like it treats a business and occupation tax. Someone can file a referendum with the city clerk within seven days of the ordinance passing, which was Wednesday. The clerk and the petitioner have 10 days to confer over a petition. The petitioner then has 30 days to gather signatures of 15 percent of registered voters.

Point Two: Perhaps the most puzzling part of this issue is that if you have a referendum on the Pilot, it has absolutely no bearing on the rates. You could kill the transfer of funds from city utilities to the general fund, but all it would mean is the utility service would be able to keep the money.

Point Three: Based on my read of what’s in the city charter (Section 34) and the state law it references, a referendum on the property tax hike would roughly follow the same rules as the one on the PILOT, except you might need signatures from 25 percent of registered voters.

The property tax measure represents a $111,761 difference in what the city would have collected had the council not approved a “declaration of substantial need.”

State law allows the city to get 1 percent more each year in property tax collections, assuming inflation is at least that high. This year there was deflation of slightly less than 1 percent, so the city would actually have to collect less.

The question affects collections for years to come, because whatever the city collects this year is what it will base next year’s collections on, and so on.

True-Crime Author Puts Spotlight on Bremerton

A piece of Bremerton’s tragic past will be spotlighted this coming spring.

True-crime author Gregg Olsen has a new book about the 1997 murder of Dawn Hacheney. Her husband, Nicholas Hachney, a former Bainbridge Island pastor, was convicted in 2002 of killing her in and hiding the evidence by setting fire to an East Bremerton apartment. He was sentenced to just over 26 years in prison, though he could be released in 16-19 years. Details of his post-prison community custody terms still must be worked out in court again.

The case drew gasps and wide eyes of horror from community members when sordid details of the case came out in court. Nicholas Hacheney had reportedly had affairs with several parishoners, including one mistress’s daughter. One woman claimed she had a vision from God, who told her that Dawn Hachney was going to die and that she would become Nicholas Hachney’s new wife.

In other words, the details of the case proved perhaps inevitably that a true-crime writer would seize upon it. That seems apparent in the promotional video for the book “A Twisted Faith,” which is set for release March 2010 (see promo video below).

It may not one of the highlights of Bremerton’s collective memory (we’ll just blame Bainbridge), but then isn’t all PR good PR?

– Angela Dice