A sales tax increase to help Pierce Transit restore services and avoid further cuts will head to voters this fall.
The agencys board on Monday agreed to place a three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot.
It would generate an estimated $28 million annually and allow Pierce Transit to restore some of the service its cut in the last year, transit officials said.
Annual service hours would rise from 418,000 to more than 581,000.
If it fails, more reductions will come, officials said.
We risk, in not putting this matter before voters, becoming an irrelevant transit system one that people cant count on, one that people easily write off, said Tacoma City Council member Jake Fey, who sits on the transit board.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, board chairwoman, said its never easy to ask for a tax increase. But its even more difficult to have bus service thats so eroded that it doesnt serve the people who need it most, she said.
The vote was 7-1, with Don Anderson, Lakewoods deputy mayor, the sole dissenter. He said he might have supported a smaller increase that came with an ending date.
I believe its unwise to put (the three-tenths of 1 percent increase) on the ballot at this time, he said. Its too much, too soon and for too long.
Today, Pierce Transit collects a 0.6 percent sales tax within its boundaries; the additional three-tenths would bring the agency to the maximum allowed by state law.
Its needed because Pierce Transits sales tax revenue which accounts for about 70 percent of its budget has continued to decline, officials said. And, its boundaries were just reduced, with the departing communities Bonney Lake, Sumner, Orting, Buckley, DuPont and some unincorporated parts of the counties taking roughly $7.5 million in annual sales tax revenue with them.
A group of elected officials from throughout the county which was independent from Pierce Transits board settled on the new boundary map through a process that ended in May.
Pierce Transit in February 2011 proposed the same three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase, but it failed.
Since then, the agency has cut bus service by one-third and reduced its work force by 18 percent. Before that measure went before voters, the agency already had made $89 million in cuts, transit officials said Monday.
If the new sales tax measure fails, the agency will have to cut service by a projected 38 percent, officials said. Weekend bus and shuttle service likely would go away, among other cuts.
Before the boards vote Monday, about a half-dozen community members weighed in on the potential tax increase.
Some were in favor and others seemed against. One man urged the board to attach a sunset to any tax hike.
Bliss Moore of Tacoma said hes in favor. Better bus service not only helps riders, he said, but also the environment by taking cars off the road.