I-976 could detour Island Transit buses

If passed, Initiative 976 has the potential to significantly diminish bus and paratransit service in Island County.

To discuss the impacts, Island Transit Executive Director Todd Morrow will be at a public meeting at 11 a.m., Monday, Oct. 21 at the Oak Harbor Senior Center and at noon at the Coupeville Library. Residents are urged to bring their questions and concerns.

I-976, a statewide initiative, was proposed by anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman and will be on the November ballot. It would set annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30 except voter-approved charges and base future vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book rather than 85 percent of the manufacturer’s suggested base retail price, and otherwise limit taxes and fees related to transportation.

The initiative would also limit the ability of a transportation benefit district to raise taxes through vehicle license fees. The Oak Harbor City Council, which established a transportation benefit district last year, was set to consider a resolution opposing I-976 Tuesday night.

If I-976 passes, the state would lose $4.2 billion in transportation funding over six years. The revenue for the multi-modal account that funds Island Transit would lose an estimated $1.5 billion, a cut of about 70 percent.

Island Transit received about 17 percent of its annual revenues from the multi-modal fund, which amounts to $3.27 million this year, according to Island Transit.

The funds that would be in jeopardy are $1.8 million for bus service, more than $600,000 for paratransit service, $340,000 for county connectors and about $500,000 for replacement vanpool vans, Island Transit reported.

“If Initiative 976 is approved by the voters, funding for those programs will be disrupted and diminished,” according to an Island Transit fact sheet. “Island Transit would not be able to sustain its current level of service.”

Island Transit is an independent public agency that provides transportation services in Island County. Five of the six members of the board of directors are elected officials from the county and the three municipalities.

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