“I’m very pleased,” said Mayor Stephen Buxbaum. “This is very important for our longterm community security. I think it indicates that Olympians really think of public safety as a priority.”
The Olympia City Council unanimously voted to put the tax measure on the November ballot, an extra penny on every $10 of taxable spending, to create a new source of funding to protect police and the prosecutor’s office from cuts.
Proponents had claimed that if voters don’t approve, the city might have to cut 10 police officers, a crime prevention and volunteer program and the west-side police station. The city’s prosecutor’s office faced cuts, and the city might have needed to reduce 34 percent of its jail beds.
But opponents, such as Olympia resident Ken McClarty, said the city was trying to use the prospect of cuts to scare people into voting for the measure and that the city has overspent.
“I think that if there were more people that were in the know, that were informed … that it wouldn’t have passed,” said McClarty, who helped write the statement against the tax increase in the county voter’s pamphlet.
City Manager Steve Hall’s proposed a 2013 budget last month that would cut 16 city positions, five of those from the police department. Of those, four police officers and one volunteer coordinator would be cut, including a school resource officer program.
But Hall’s budget didn’t assume the sales-tax will pass. Buxbaum said the council will get to work to restore the cuts. The council will hold a public hearing on Hall’s budget at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting and the council will deliberate on the budget at its Nov. 20 meeting.
State law requires that 15 percent of the money generated from the tax increase go to the county, and the city gets the rest. The law requires one-third of the city’s money generated from the increase to be spent on criminal justice, but the city is proposing to spend almost all of it on police and the city prosecutor’s office.