Our View: Delaying vote on new Kent police station wise move

sunset clause, scaling back plans could help passage of levy

Published:

Kent City Council's deci-

sion not to go to the voters in May with another levy for a new police station is a wise move, for several reasons.

As City Manager Dave Ruller noted, voters in Kent already are facing a major tax issue on the primary ballot -- the 8.9-mill levy being sought by the Kent City Schools, which hasn't asked for funding for seven years. The city and the school district traditionally have avoided being on the ballot at the same time.

Another factor to be considered was the short time frame for placing an issue on the May 7 ballot. Seeking a spring vote would mean meeting a February ballot deadline, which wasn't a great deal of time for council to decide its course of action on a levy for a police station.

The bid to hike the city's income tax to fund a new station failed by about 1,000 votes in November. That was a solid rejection of the proposal put before the voters, which ought to be taken as a signal that any future ballot issue will need to be modified.

Kent needs a new police station. The present facility, which is nearly 90 years old, is a dilapidated, crowded structure that is a maze of makeshift rooms that serve neither the police nor the public adequately.

The big question is how to finance a new station. Any tax request will be a hard sell, given the economy and anxiety about the recovery. Going to the voters with a big ticket request will be even more of a challenge.

Renovation of the present site would cost about $12 million. Building new, the preferred option, would cost about $18 million. That includes land acquisition in downtown area, near the existing station, which adds to the cost because of rising property values there.

The measure defeated by voters last fall was a 0.25 percent increase in the city income tax, which would have raised about $1.3 million per year to pay for the project. The ballot issue called for a permanent tax increase, which, in retrospect, might have been one of the factors that doomed it. A sunset provision ought to be considered if the measure is returned to the voters.

A more modest proposal also would have a better chance of passage. With a May levy request no longer an option, council will have several months to decide if it wants to place an issue on the November ballot. A closer look at the plans, with an eye toward scaling them back, would be a good idea.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.