Tag Archives: The Economy

Port Orchard Council to Vote Tuesday on Tax Ordinance

The Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday will vote on an ordinance declaring substantial need to raise taxes up to one percent. In past years, the city has automatically been able to do so. But this year, an ordinance is necessary because of negative inflation and the fact Port Orchard’s population has increased beyond the threshold that triggers a vote in such a case.

Read the complete story here.

Also at the meeting, the council will issue proclamations recognizing November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and recognizing Deliah Rene Luke for spearheading the Paint the Town event in August.

I’ll be at the meeting. Comment here, or e-mail me with your questions for the council, chenry@kitsapsun.com.

PO Lodging Tax Funds Come in at 70 Percent of Budgeted Amount

Advisory committee has forwarded its recommendations for 2010 awards to the city council.
By Chris Henry
Revenue from the City of Port Orchard’s lodging tax for 2009 will fall short of estimates made at the end of 2008.
The city expected to collect $93,000 in hotel/motel tax revenues, but with the downturn in the economy, a revised estimate shows the city will receive $64,577, about 70 percent of the original amount.
The city treasurer’s office told the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee of the shortfall in early September. The committee makes recommendations each year on distributing funds among a pool of applicants. Recipients must submit claims to the city to receive their allocations.
In light of the shortfall, the city council debated how to honor commitments to recipients. At one point they considered disbursing funds on a first-come-first-served basis. But on Tuesday they decided instead to distribute the funds proportionally.
“We wanted to do it in a fair and humane way,” said Fred Chang, chairman of the committee.
The city has asked recipients to submit claims no later than Oct. 27, so the total amount available can be calculated.
Lodging tax funds not claimed in any given year are rolled over into the following year. The city had $21,776 carry-over in funds that weren’t claimed last year. The council awarded these funds to four applicants not chosen in the first round. The amount of supplemental funds not yet claimed will be considered in the total yet to be distributed.
Mike Strube, chairman of the Port Orchard Chamber board of directors, said the lowered award did not come as a surprise. The chamber’s successful fundraising this year will help offset the loss of funds.
“I think we all knew, with the economy the way it was, that we may not see as much from lodging taxes,” said Strube. “It’s a little lower than I expected but we’ll roll with it.”
Chang said the council will encourage organizations that can make up the loss in other areas of their budgets to decline all or part of any funds yet to be claimed.
The city’s 2009 lodging tax recipients and the amount they were originally promised include the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce ($23,420), tourism and marketing duties performed by the city clerk ($20,000), Cedar Cove Days ($15,000), Fathoms ‘O Fun Festival ($10,500), Sidney Museum and Arts Association ($10,200), the Port Orchard Bay Street Association ($3,660), the Saints Car Club ($1,900) and the Port of Bremerton ($500).
Groups receiving awards from the supplemental fund include the city’s Festival of Chimes and Lights ($7,820), Concerts by the Bay ($5,000), foot ferry service for the Kitsap Harbor Festival ($4,400) and the city’s tourism committee ($3,000).
Notably left off the list of 2009 recipients was the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau. The council took the position that the VCB in recent years had fallen short in promoting Port Orchard. The VCB has since hired a new director.
The committee recently submitted its recommendations for 2010 lodging tax funds to the city council. According to Chang, 12 organizations made requests totaling $168,000. The city expects to bring in $61,000.
The committee ranked applicants based on how well they are seen to support tourism in the city. The VCB requested $20,000. Mayor Lary Coppola recommended $2,000. The committee has recommended the VCB receive $900.
“My sense was that they were a little skeptical of the VCB, but they did want to try and encourage them,” said Chang, who did not vote on the recommendation.
According to Chang none of the applicants were recommended to receive all of the funding they requested.

Recession Humor: Heard a Good One Lately?

Economic pundits may see signs the recession is easing, but that’s small comfort to Leah Figueras of Poulsbo, a dental assistant and single mother of two who was laid off in July. I wrote about Figueras as part of the Kitsap Sun’s Faces of the Recession series.

One of recommendations experts have folks like Leah for who are depressed over loss of a job is laughter. Well it seems we, as a nation, have found plenty of humor in widespread unemployment, home foreclosures and bank bailouts. In fact, it’s spawned a whole new industry.

Yes, it’s the great American way. When the going gets tough, we go shopping for T-shirts, coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets. We send recession humor greeting cards. And we drink from a no doubt collectible recession humor pint glass.

Recession Beer Mug
Recession Beer Mug

We post slide shows with catchy sayings about the economy.

And we laugh at political cartoons about the recession.

Bailout Sculpture
Bailout Sculpture

We all could use a good laugh. So post your favorite recession jokes here. Hey, “If I had 700 billion, I guess I could save the economy, too.”

Bethel Widening Not on PSRC’s Short List

Transportation reporter Ed Friedrich is working on a story for tomorrow about recommendations from the Puget Sound Regional Council for how $136 million in Federal Transportation Funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 should be allocated and how that affects Kitsap County. At issue is how the money should be divvied up among transportation projects around the state. Kitsap projects making the cut are improvements to Viking Way totaling $3,800,000 and the Bainbridge Island Core 40 Shoulder Widening Program at $150,000 (both described below post).

The largest project in South Kitsap, the $26 million widening of Bethel Road, is among projects that did not make the list. According to reporter Steve Gardner, the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council made its recommendations to the PSRC weighing heavily whether the candidate projects were “shovel ready.” It’s safe to say Bethel Corridor is far from shovel-ready. Gardner spoke to Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown, who said the proposed South Kitsap Industrial Area connector road did not make the cut for the same reason.

From the PSRC Web site:

Agency Title Recommended ARRA Funds
Poulsbo Viking Ave Improvements Phase II (McDonalds to SR 305) $ 3,800,000
Bainbridge Island Core 40 Shoulder Widening Program – Blakely Non-Motorized Project Phase II $ 150,000
Total Kitsap Co. ‘Top Priority’ $3,950,000

On PSRC’s interactive map of recommended projects, see:

Bainbridge Island

This project proposes to improve non-motorized access around Blakely and Wilkes Elementary Schools. Both schools are in the less developed areas of the island where adjoining roads have generally substandard improvements for walking or bicycling to school, but have enough surrounding homes to allow a student population to walk if facilities were available.
This project will provide non-motorized improvements around both schools. It will provide detailed planning and beginning of a safe non-motorized route to both schools. The facilities will allow elementary school students to walk and bicycle to school who are not comfortable doing it now. Walking or riding bikes to school will improve the health of the students doing it, and reduce vehicular trip to school thus improving air quality. ARRA Funds $150,000.


The proposed project will improve mobility and safety along this corridor. Phase II of the project consists of the intersection of NW Lindvig Way and Viking Avenue, and the segment of Viking Avenue from the McDonalds restaurant to SR 305. The improvements along Viking Avenue include a continuous two-way left turn lane, bike lanes, drainage improvements, and curb and sidewalk on both sides of the road. The improvements at the intersection consist of improved channelization by adding a left-turn lane westbound on NW Lindvig Way and a right-turn lane northbound on Viking Avenue.
ARRA funds $3,800,000.

Asked to Take a Pay Cut? Welcome to My World

You know when the subject of the e-mail is “difficult news” and it comes from the CEO of your company, it can’t be good.

We at the Kitsap Sun received notice today from E.W. Scripps President and CEO Rich Boehne that we would be asked to take a pay cut to help the company weather the recession.

“Maintaining financial health and flexibility must be a top priority in this environment. The economy is throwing new and bigger challenges at us each day and we intend to have the strength to weather the storm,” wrote Boehne in the fairly lengthy e-mail simply signed “Rich.”

When the CEO of your parent company drops down on one knee to meet you – his “dear colleague” – at eye level, you know it’s not good. To be fair, I’m sure it is painful to Boehne to have to make these kinds of decisions. And he’s not alone.

On Monday, in fact, I heard a program on National Public Radio (Planet Money, Feb. 16, 2008) about the likelihood that many major companies would be imposing some kind of voluntary or involuntary cut-backs in compensation to their employees.

People interviewed were asked if, given a choice, they would rather see co-workers laid off or take a temporary cut in pay with the understanding that their pay would be reinstated once the economy turns around. Many said they would take the pay cut. Others said not so fast. Another cost-cutting option shouldered by employees is a voluntary furlough, such as has been implemented on Bainbridge Island and in Kitsap County government.

Personally, I would much rather suck up a temporary loss of pay over seeing more of my “dear collegues” depart the newsroom.

I’ve done the math. For our family the cut will be inconvenient but manageable. I view it as a temporary lifestyle adjustment comparable to families in World War II who went without nylon stockings and put in victory gardens to support the war effort. (Those who know me know that I would have absolutely no problem swearing off nylon stockings for a while ;))

One thing the radio program noted is that to maintain morale in the face of a pay cut it is critical that management take one for the team as well, which is what’s happened at Scripps.

We’d like to hear from anyone else out there who has been asked to take a cut in pay or make other adjustments to help keep your company on life-support. And I’ll ask what the NPR program did, “Would you rather take a pay cut, or keep your job and see others laid off?” (And don’t anybody go judging people who pick door number two as lacking in altruism, because you know in making that choice they concede to shoulder an additional workload to make up for the reduction in force.)

Port Orchard: Thrifty or Cheap Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about Port Orchard’s penchant for thrift, which has been extant at least as long as I’ve lived in South Kitsap (since 1979).

The city, for example, didn’t go for a voted bond issue to pay for its City Hall (completed in 1999) or expansion of its wastewater treatment plant (completed in 2007). Payments on the City Hall debt come from the city’s current expense fund, its cumulative reserve for municipal facilities fund (where real estate excise tax goes) and its water-sewer operating fund. The city’s portion of the wastewater treatment facility debt is paid for through sewer rates.

“At the time City Hall was built the City fathers did not want to increase the tax burden to the citizens by having an additional property tax levy,” wrote City Treasurer Kris Tompkins in an e-mail to me.

As I look to the year ahead, however, I wonder if (and to what degree) that thrifty mindset may be about to change.

Port Orchard is on the cusp of change and growth that will require some major expenditures. There are currently three major projects on the city’s plate, the Tremont Corridor, the Bethel Corridor and the Town Center Revitalization Project/ parking garage, which I wrote about Tuesday.

In a comment on the story, Sally Santana writes:

“How are we going to afford this and the Tremont roundabout too? And the Bethel Corridor?”

The short story on this is that the city has funding for work set to take place in 2009 on these three projects. Beyond that, there are funding gaps, and city officials are looking at a number of different potential funding sources, including state and federal grants, and economic stimulus money.

Here’s where the three project stand in terms of progress and funding.

The Tremont Street project is budgeted at an estimated $15 to $16 million with construction set to start in 2011. The work set to be done in 2009, completing the design and right-of-way acquisition, is covered in this year’s budget. The project is partially funded with state and federal grants that require a local match, with money coming from the city’s arterial street fund. There is, however, a “funding gap” for completion of the project, according to City Engineer Mark Dorsey. The state’s $6 billion budget deficit could impact the Tremont Corridor, in which case, the city would have to come up with alternate funding besides money the state had committed to the project. The city is working with the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council and the Puget Sound Regional Coordinating Council to acquire more state and federal funding to close the gap, including federal economic stimulus monies for projects to completed within a two-year time frame.

Although the city has expressed an interest in annexing all of the Bethel Corridor sooner rather than later, that project is not even on Dorsey’s radar for 2009. The city will shortly complete annexation of 39 mostly commercial parcels on Bethel, including Fred Meyer, which will generate subtantial sales tax revenue. The theory is that, as the rest of Bethel comes into the city limits, the cost to complete the widening with infrastructure will come in part from sales taxes. But the city will also be looking toward a variety of funding sources to see this project to completion, Dorsey said. The city is also asking the county to suspend a revenue sharing agreement that would increase the city’s share of revenue gradually over three years to provide the county a “soft landing” financially speaking.

The city has spent all but $6,500 out of $30,000 on a preliminary design for the town center/parking garage. They have also spent $16,000 on a geotechnical report to make sure the proposed building wouldn’t need extra support to prevent it sinking, as buildings close to a shoreline are prone to. The project is in the “very” preliminary stages, according to development director James Weaver. The prospectus on the town center (on the city’s Web site) includes a rather lengthy list of potential funding sources including:

“1. The Port of Bremerton, a major stakeholder that needs approximately 100 spaces, has indicated
a desire to provide commensurate funding of portions of one or more parking structures.
2. Federal funding through Congressional earmarks or programs.
3. Kitsap Transit, another major stakeholder that could seek funding through many sources to
support transit improvements and parking requirements for bus and ferry users.
4. Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, as the Port Orchard designated development
authority for New Market Tax Credits and which can pursue both low interest loans and grants
in conjunction with arrangements with private developers.
5. The City of Port Orchard, which can obtain funds via a bond issue, sale of the existing library
parcel, and pursue grants and loans on its own.

Additional possible funding opportunities may include

6. Washington State Local Infrastructure Financing Tool (LIFT) funding opportunities
7. New Market Tax Credit financing
8. Federal Economic Stimulus financing
9. Federal Appropriations
10. Public / Private Partnerships
11. Community Development Block Grant and other potential funding sources.”

The item city residents will want to pay close attention to, and one that I’ll be watching, is: “The City of Port Orchard, which can obtain funds via a bond issue.”

So, getting back to the thrifty or cheap question, to what extent is major spending on infrastructure and development of public properties justified if the goal of the city is growth and economic development? Considering the state of the economy, to what degree should the city hold to its traditionally thrifty principals? Did adherence to those principals in any way cause the stagnation that Port Orchard is often cited as suffering from?

City of Port Orchard: Thrifty or Cheap?

You’ll have read in today’s Kitsap Sun that the county’s projected sales tax revenues are lower than expected.

According to the story by Steve Gardner:

“Revenues came in $600,000 less than expected for the year, even after the county had trimmed its original budget expectations by $2.8 million.”


The county is in good (?) company. Gardner writes:

“On Bainbridge Island, the city learned last week that permitting fee revenues were dramatically less than expected for the end of the year.

In Bremerton, the city closed its offices to the public on Fridays, in part to deal with a $4.4 million budget hole there. Poulsbo came in $1 million short after 2008. Steve Gardner just informed me (1:30 p.m.) that he heard from the city of Poulsbo an update that this city also came in about where they expected for revenue.

Port Orchard was the only city to come close to its original budget.” Port Orchard and Poulsbo both came in close to their original budgets.

When asked if Port Orchard was feeling the other cities’ budget pain, City Treasurer Kris Tompkins e-mailed me:

“We came into 2009 pretty close to budgeted beginning cash balances. We will be watching revenues (and expenditures) closely each month, particularly sales tax collections. I will be briefing the Mayor and
Finance Committee regularly so we can adjust if necessary.

As you know we tend to budget conservatively here.”

I can testify to this. I don’t live within city limits, but we get our water and sewer from Port Orchard. I can remember a time (definitely less than five years ago, possibly less than three) that the city did not provide return envelopes with its bills. I have jokingly said they charge by the sheet for toilet paper if you want to use the restroom at City Hall. It’s not true, but it reflects the mentality of at least the last 20 years, which is at least how long Tomkins has been with the city. In all probability she will continue to keep the city council on a short leash to extent her job description allows.

Gardner and I were talking about this yesterday evening. Playing devil’s advocate, Steve asked if budgeting conservatively is being straight up with constituents. After all, it boils down to underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses. City officials who budget spot on get dinged in an economy like this, where nasty surprises are the order of the day.

South Kitsap School District does the same thing as Port Orchard. The district reported a $2.9 million budget shortfall for the 2008-2009 school year, but about $2 million of that was what Terri Patton, assistant superintendent of business and support services, calls “soft money.” Because the district budgets conservatively, they ended up ahead by about $1 million at the end of the last school year. They used $470,000 for the district’s needs, reducing the fund balance below the targeted 3+ percent. They used $250,000 of their “contingency fund” (savings account for emergencies), and they had $184,000 in “carry over.” According to Patton, “We made real cuts of $900,000.”

So, playing the devil’s advocate, I would ask, “Is this playing the shell game with the public’s money or responsible stewardship of same? How does a public entity strike the balance between providing for the constituents’ needs and providing for a rainy day?”

(Let it be noted that both PO and SKSD, like all other jurisdictions, invest any excess funds to generate additional revenue. According to Patton, their cushion will be depleted by the 2009-2010 school year, and they’ll be looking at “real cuts of $3 to $5 million.)

Simply Stupid

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re sitting in a doctor’s office and you see a magazine with a name like “Really Simple” and you think, “Right, the economy stinks. Time to simplify my life.”

You open the magazine and begin to mentally drool over how great your life will be – how fruitful, peaceful and, yea, even empowered you will feel – if only you can apply all the insightful suggestions therein.

For example, did you know you can create an atmosphere of familial calm by repainting your entire house in soothing, cool colors like greens and blues? You are amazed and excited. Why did you not think of this before? First the family room; next the Middle East.

And did you know you can make a fool-proof fire starter for your fireplace using paraffin and dryer lint? Really. All you have to do is harvest the lint (make it a festive event), melt the paraffin, stuff the lint in egg cartons and pour in the paraffin, adding a wick. “Wonderful,” you say to yourself. “Plenty of lint, I’ve got. Now about those other items, I wonder how many stores I will have to drive to to find them.”

I know about magazines like “Really Simple.” They are aimed at people, primarily women, whose lives are complicated. Their premise is that a simple life is actually achievable … if only. If only, in addition to everything else you have to do, you just drop it all and pick up a paintbrush … and the magazine just to make sure you’re doing it right and that the end result is as idyllic and picture perfect as its glossy pages, which, trust me on this, were not at all simple to produce.

With the start of the new year – the economy being what it is – I see a theme emerging on this blog: doing less with less and maybe even being happy with it. Easier than it sounds given the necessity of eating, driving, clothing oneself and, yes, having fun.

Chime in and stay tuned.

Worst Job, Dream Job

I read with interest the Kitsap Sun’s most recent article on unemployment.

In Kitsap County we’re up from 5.5 percent unemployment in October to 5.8 percent in November. That’s an increase of 1.5 percentage points from a year ago November. Statewide, unemployment stands at 6.4 percent; nationwide at 6.7 percent. And of course, behind all those stats are people.

Who among us has not been touched by this aspect of the recession, either directly or through someone we know losing a job or having a hard time finding one? I can list a half dozen people I know who are or shortly will be looking for work. My son searched for more than two months and sent out more than 20 resumes before landing a job earlier this month.

As he was starting to reach the point of desperation, he took a job that proves some things are worse than not working. The job title said, “canvassing.” But it was really cold call solicitations door-to-door. The nonprofit organization he worked for may have been very worthwhile, but given the reception he got, he may as well have been selling useless, overpriced whizmos or had the plague. It was totally demoralizing, he said. He quit after two days. Thankfully, he got a “real” job earlier this month, with benefits!

My worst job ever was a temp position in which I collated papers in a concrete, windowless building, freezing my buns off in a skirt because they told me it was a clerical position. It was the longest day-and-a-half of my life.

Second worst was waiting tables at the Village Pancake House in Casper, Wyoming. The restaurant was the place to go for a hot date, a sad commentary on the town and the times (1970s). I’m sure it’s an up and coming burg by now. You had to put up with sexist comments because the unspoken rule was the more you flirted the better they tipped. Twenty-five cents was the norm; 50 cents was considered big spending. It wasn’t – even for those times.

With all the uncertainty about the economy and the job market, who among us has not thought about what we would do if we got laid off? Is it the Chinese language in which the characters for “danger” and “opportunity” are the same? It could be time to explore a new field or finally believe you have the stuff to get that dream job.

So what would your dream job be? Is there anything in life you’d like to do that you haven’t tried?