Veterans and Human Services Levy Resolution – Read it Here

Comments on today’s story about the county’s Veterans and Human Services Levy, approved for the Nov. 8 ballot by the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners, indicate there is considerable lingering disgruntlement about the board’s decision in 2009 to defer collection of the the veterans assistance fund levy in 2010, a move made to help balance the county’s general fund budget.

Please note that the fund that would be created if voters approve the special Veterans and Human Services Levy is separate from the county’s Veterans Assistance Fund, but because they both are aimed at helping veterans, people have connected the dots.

Commissioners Josh Brown and Charlotte Garrido, who were on the board at the time, seemed at last night’s meeting well aware of the sense of mistrust and long memories of those who disagreed with that decision, the net result of which was $320,000 that did not go into the fund.

Garrido and Brown commented more than once to that effect.

“Levy proceeds can only be used for the stated goals of this program. Levy funds cannot be used to supplant the county’s general fund.” – Charlotte Garrido

“We want to make it very clear that if this levy is approved, these monies go in a lock box. The monies cant be diverted.” – Josh Brown

I’ve attached a copy of the Veterans and Human Services Levy Resolution to the story (and put a link to it here). The document goes into considerable detail about how the money will be tracked and allocated. Revisions were made in response to public comments, said Leif Bentsen, who coordinates the county’s Veterans Assistance Program. Whether provisions of the resolution adequately provide for efficiency, transparency and effective use of the $1.4 million per year is open to debate between now and Nov. 8.

Several readers also commented that they would prefer a sales tax over a property tax. Commissioner Rob Gelder got back to me today and reaffirmed what he said at the meeting. While state law allows for the county to collect sales taxes for a host of purposes, a human services levy is not among them. The closest the law comes to that is a provision for mental health funding, Gelder said.

Chris Henry, reporter

Here’s the entire document for those who can access it.

Homeless Levy

2 thoughts on “Veterans and Human Services Levy Resolution – Read it Here

  1. The sales tax option covers more than mental health services, but its uses aren’t broad enough to cover what the commissioners have in mind.

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=82.14.460

    “(3) Moneys collected under this section must be used solely for the purpose of providing for the operation or delivery of chemical dependency or mental health treatment programs and services and for the operation or delivery of therapeutic court programs and services. For the purposes of this section, “programs and services” includes, but is not limited to, treatment services, case management, and housing that are a component of a coordinated chemical dependency or mental health treatment program or service.”

  2. The need for the county to take care of vets is so slight, the Advisory Board has to come up with innovative ways to spend (waste?) the money they already have. Last year they spent a significant part of their budget hiring contractors who offered vets and family members classes on entrepreneurship. As far as anyone knows, none of the attendees started a business.

    Nonetheless, depleting the Veterans’ Assistance Fund was essential to marketing this levy at five-times the tax rate of the current veterans’ fund the first year, with built-in increases each of the subsequent five years. Also, this is all in addition to the existing $0.01/$1000 tax in state law.

    Part of the levy is to provide mental health services for vets. The Veterans’ Administration and the WA Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs spend many millions of dollars and do a commendable job of fulfilling that need. It is not an appropriate role for the county.

    The levy proposes care for the needs of military members and their families. All vets know the degree to which bases are self-sufficient communities with all kinds of support available, including assistance funds we donate to within each service branch that grant millions of dollars to military families in uniquely bad circumstances. Again, not something that requires county involvement.

    About $320,000 in taxation authority is available now for the county to take care of veterans’ needs. They haven’t been able to spend it. The half of the levy devoted to vets adds $750,000/year to the $320,000. Do you really think if they can’t spend it they will give it back to us?

    Kitsap may have a homeless problem, but I sure don’t see where that has anything to do with our veteran population, except I feel exploited by politicians who are trying to use sympathy for vets as a tool for a major tax increase.

    As for mental health services featured in the levy, we already pay $0.025/$1000 dedicated to that.

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