Special Reports

Officials hope to use sales tax to fund domestic abuse centers

Pierce County officials hope to use money from a proposed sales-tax increase to create three "service centers" for domestic violence victims in outlying areas of the county.

And the Tacoma City Council plans to vote Tuesday on a resolution indicating that if voters approve the sales-tax increase, the city will use some of the money to build a one-stop domestic violence center in downtown Tacoma, geared to helping overwhelmed victims.

There are two hitches to those plans. First, voters on Nov. 4 might not raise the sales tax hike. The 0.3 percentage point increase, which will appear on the ballot as county Proposition 1, would raise about $25 million per year, much of which would be used to hire law enforcement officers.

Second, city and county officials have made no promises about how they'll spend the money. City officials haven't indicated how much of the city's portion would be used to fund domestic violence.

County officials have said they hope to divert about $700,000 of the tax money annually to pay for part of the three planned service centers. The final amount would be determined during the county's next budget planning process.

Regardless, local domestic violence advocates are thrilled that Tacoma and Pierce County officials are talking about paying for the service centers and one-stop center - projects they've wanted for years.

"I can't say enough how exciting it is," said Ann Eft, director of the Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence. "People are very interested in having their own community services."

Eft has nicknamed the three service centers "minimarts" that probably would be located in or near Lakewood, Gig Harbor and Puyallup. Each would be staffed by two victim advocates who would help domestic violence victims report problems and find the social services they need, plus a person to help victims of elder abuse. In addition, a detective would work at each service center part time, Eft said.

Pierce County officials have released a plan for the sales-tax money that includes about $189,000 for each of the three service centers, but it might cost more. Much of that money would be spent on rent for space for the service centers, Eft said. Another small chunk of money would pay for a program to prevent juvenile family violence.

Domestic violence has been a key issue in the South Sound since Tacoma Police Chief David Brame killed his wife, Crystal, and himself this spring. In her divorce filings, Crystal Brame said her husband had abused her for years.

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658