Kent will replace its 89-year old police facility even if a 0.25 percent income tax increase on the November ballot fails, but that doesn't mean there won't be price tag for residents.
In a Kent City Council work session Wednesday, City Manager Dave Ruller told council that without ballot approval, the city will be forced to take a hard look at what areas of public service can be cut to leverage a police facility.
Studies have found the current police facility to be in very poor condition and noncompliant with state regulations in multiple areas.
"The ballot vote is not about whether we're building a building or not. We have to build. The question still remains: How do you pay for it?" Ruller said.
The estimated costs to construct the new facility, which expands on the current Safety Administration Building site near South Water and Day streets, is about $17 million.
Ruller said the city expects to pay $1.2 million, including interest, annually over 25 years for the building.
The tax increase on the November ballot would raise Kent's income tax rate from 2 to 2.25 percent.
If the ballot measure fails, Ruller said the city has to figure out how to reduce it's annual budget by $1.2 million. Cutting directly from the city's capital fund would leave about $900,000 for improvement projects, cutting directly from the workforce would eliminate 16 to 20 positions, about one of every eight employees, he said, adding that neither options are very palatable.
Noting that nothing is yet on the chopping block, Ruller listed a sampling of programs, services and grants that would only make up a portion of cuts, including leaf collection, the adopt-a-spot program, special event service, the Tree City Bulletin, participation in the Drug Task Force, school crossing guards and more.
"I'm not trying to be alarmist, I'm just trying to explain the consequences of the vote that's going to the ballot," he said. "It isn't just about the police, because if a vote comes back 'no,' these are the conversations we as a community are going to have to have."
Kent voters rejected the income tax increase in November 2012.
To make the measure more palatable this November, council voted to let the tax increase expire when the facility is paid off, to not direct the increased revenue to any other projects and to raise the income tax credit from 2 to 2.25 percent for city residents working outside the city.
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