The Port Orchard City Council approved a 1/10th of 1% sales tax increase Sept. 27 to pay for two new roundabouts on Bethel Road.
Council member Shawn Cucciardi said that the hundreds of thousands of people who spend money in Port Orchard every year will provide a solid boost to the funding.
“We thought that this was the most equitable way and the best way for our residents to help fund a project of this enormity,” he said. “We’re reaching out to all the users of this infrastructure to help support the cost of it over time.”
Another option, Councilmember Fred Chang said, would have been a property tax for Port Orchard residents only, but it was not as appealing to him due to Bethel Road being used by many people who live outside of city limits.
“For me, it was not so much a trade-off, but it made sense,” he said.
The ordinance will continue to address growth in the city and the importance of improving traffic flow, Councilmember Scott Diener said.
He said Port Orchard “is growing very fast, but it’s not the growth that people feel. It’s the traffic, and if it weren’t for the traffic, they wouldn’t care about the growth as much.”
The tax was approved at a time when the city continues to push the state to make improvements to other roads in Port Orchard, such as the intersection of Bethel and Sedwick and the on- and off-ramps at Highway 16, among other improvements. The roundabouts would be at Bethel at Salmonberry and at Blueberry roads.
Councilmember John Clausen said that passing the tax was the next step in continuing to improve the roads of Port Orchard that the city can while it works with officials on state roads.
“A lot is going on in that corridor,” he said, “and this helps us to just keep the project moving and the momentum going,” he said.
In response to a comment from a resident worried about the recent spike in gas prices, Clausen assured residents that the sales tax does not apply to those purchases. The tax hike will also not apply to grocery purchases, which remain untaxed in Washington.
The plan now for this project is to get an engineer’s estimate and a design to help figure out the overall cost of the roundabouts within the next three years, Mayor Rob Putaansuu said.
“It’s possible that this (tax) is enough money, in particular if we’re able to get a grant, to fully fund that segment of roadway,” he said. “If we don’t have enough, then we’ll have further conversation, and it will take a ballot measure to do something more than this one-tenth.”