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Islanders pushed transit tax to successThe sales tax hike earned 77 percent support among Bainbridge voters.
"Overwhelming support on Bainbridge Island provided the margin of victory for the Kitsap Transit tax levy, according to final results from the County Auditor's office.Islanders voted 5,956 to 1,770 - a 77.1 percent margin - to approve the additional three-tenths of 1 percent in sales taxes in the mail-only election in May.The final tally showed the measure squeaking by in Kitsap County by 887 votes, with 31,927 voting yes and 31,040 voting no. So the 4,186-vote approval on the island was almost five times the overall margin of victory.We got even better support on Bainbridge this time than we did last September, when an earlier version of the tax increase failed, transit Executive Director Richard Hayes said.Hayes attributed Bainbridge's strong support to the fact that Kitsap Transit service is well tailored to meet island needs.Our role is better defined with respect to Highway 305 than with any other road, said Hayes, referring to the bus systems' shuttles to and from the ferry terminal.And we run an unusual kind of service on Bainbridge - small buses that make relatively short trips through neighborhoods and to the ferry, he said. When you consider where we let you off, it's almost as fast to take a bus as a car to the ferry.The measure received better than a 2-1 approval margin in every one of the island's 23 voting precincts. The closest vote was in the Meadowmeer area, where 126 yes votes were cast compared with 54 no votes. The Blue Heron precinct in the north end of Winslow was the most overwhelmingly favorable precinct on the island. Voters there gave the measure 431 yes votes to 87 no votes, an almost 5-1 margin.The Kitsap Transit Board expects to formally approve collecting the additional tax at its next regularly scheduled meeting on June 5.In the event state lawmakers dedicate state funding for transit agencies across the state by the time the second special session concludes, board members could discuss rolling back the additional sales tax collection.Once the board approves the additional collection of the transit's portion of the sales tax, it will forward the resolution to the state. Because the increase can only take effect at the beginning of the a quarter, Kitsap Transit officials say taxpayers can expect the change to hit their pocketbooks beginning Oct. 1. The transit agency won't start collecting the revenue until mid-December. Even so, commuters could see a quicker return on their investment in Prop 1.The plan is to restore Kitsap Transit service and fares back to 1999 levels - before Initiative 695 terminated the motor vehicle excise tax. In the short-term, the agency plans to implement smaller, incremental changes based on the number of drivers recruited.The additional three-tenths of 1 percent in sales tax revenues is expected to generate $7.8 million to replace the $10.3 million the agency lost after the MVET fund dried up.One noticeable change will come in the form of reduced bus fares.Service Development Director John Clauson said the agency plans to hold a public hearing June 28 regarding a planned reduction in fares. The plan is to drop fares to 1999 levels as soon as Aug. 1. Other immediate service plans include restoring ACCESS service, a program that caters to elderly and developmentally disabled commuters. Hayes said restoration hinges on the agency's ability to hire additional drivers. Another improvement involves adding a third bus to Route 33, which carries commuters from Silverdale, to Poulsbo and then to the Bainbridge ferry terminal.Right now that route is very full - standing room only, said Clauson, so we decided to put in a third bus there. "