BFT, county officers discussing potential tax income cuts to help psychological well being

The commissioners urge voters to stop paying 0.1% sales tax and instead pay 0.1% tax to run the health facility

July 8, 2021 6:07 PM

Ellie Nakamoto white

Posted: July 8, 2021 6:07 PM

TRI-CITIES, Washington – District commissioners, the Benton Franklin Transit Board, and members of the public met Thursday evening to discuss a tax revenue cut in the November vote in exchange for support for a potential new behavioral and mental health facility.

If the Transit Service approves the request of the Benton and Franklin Counties Commissioners, it would cut nearly $ 7 million in tax revenue, roughly 15% of the BFT’s budget.

Both counties sent letters to the BFT board of directors demanding that transit district voters stop paying 0.1% sales tax, or one cent for every $ 10.

Instead, commissioners are proposing a 0.1% tax to help the mental health facility operate after construction, with revenues estimated at nearly $ 9 million as the new tax would include all residents in both counties.

BFT Board Chairman Richard Bloom said that while he was not “rejected” the idea, he did not believe that it was “the responsible way of approaching a necessary role for the Tri-Cities”.

“To say, ‘Well, let’s just cut the budget 15% and see what happens? Those are the things that need to be discussed, ”said Bloom. “What matters is that it is not necessary to cut the transit financing so that the district commissioners approve an increased sales tax.”

Bloom said another problem was that there was no clarity about “what the real funding needs are to run the facility.”

“Nobody talked about how much it was going to cost,” said Bloom. “That’s the key.”

Bloom added that the BFT board was out of the question, but it was part of its responsibility to “use the funds responsibly”.

“The plan we have is in line with the growth of the Tri-Cities. If we don’t want to grow with the Tri-Cities, the Transit Board can make that decision, ”said Bloom.

Gloria Boyce, Managing Director of BFT, said she had “every confidence that the BFT Board of Directors will make a good decision”.

“I am sure they will consider all the information they have and follow a plan that is in the best interests of our drivers,” said Boyce.

Officials said they have all means to build the facility but will not continue to operate it. This is where the mental health tax would come into play to pay for benefits that are not covered by health insurance revenues.

Bloom added that there is no debate about what is more important between building a mental health facility and the transit service, but rather how the funds will be distributed.

Ultimately, it is up to the board of directors to pass the vote to voters to lower their taxes when they vote in November.

For BFT financial information, click here.

To view the BFT board packages and agendas, click here.


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