Out of Pierce County comes the news that some cities are considering leaving Pierce Transit because they’re paying taxes and no longer receive any service:
The mayors of Bonney Lake, Buckley and Orting – three cities that have been vocal about their transit concerns – said they favor going through the process.
“I can take not having service. What I can’t take is being taxed for service I’m not getting,” said Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson.
It’s always sad when service levels shrink, but outlying areas are where attempts to save Pierce Transit with a tax increase failed most miserably. Leaving the district would allow Tacoma and Lakewood to move forward with a more developed transit system.
Leaving the Public Transit Benefit Area, or PTBA, is a non-trivial process, as PT spokesman Lars Erickson explained to me over a year ago. It’s below the jump:
- The Board of Commissioners convenes a “public transportation improvement conference”, consisting of one elected representative chosen by each city council within the county and an elected representative chosen by the Board of Commissioners. The law also allows a “county-wide conference” to be convened by any two cities or by a petition of 10% of the registered voters within the county who voted at the last general election.
- The Board of Commissioners delineates the proposed new PTBA boundary and notifies each city in the county of it.
- Each city tells the Board of Commissioners if it desires to be within or outside of the proposed new boundary. The Board of Commissioners then revises the proposed boundary to include or exclude each city as it desires. This is the proposal to be considered at the conference.
- The conference sets a date for a public hearing on the proposed new boundaries. Notice of the hearing must be published for at least four consecutive weeks in at least one newspaper of general circulation in Pierce County. The notice must contain the information set out in RCW 36.57A.030.
- The conference holds a public hearing.
- The conference may then adopt a resolution setting revised boundaries for the PTBA as it deems reasonable and proper. The conference, however, may not adopt boundaries which will create islands of included or excluded land or which include only a portion of a city. If the conference wishes to include land which is not included in the proposal, a new notice bust be issued and an additional hearing held.
- RCW 36.57A.030 states that within 30 days after the conference adopts the resolution, the Board of Commissioners may veto “the establishment” of a PTBA. Although not completely clear, by legal opinion this only applies to creation of a new PTBA as opposed to the modification of the boundaries of an existing PTBA. On the other hand, Fakkema v. Island County could be read to suggest that the Board of Commissions has a veto over even the modification of PTBA boundaries. In any event, the Commissioners may only veto the resolution if they find that the new PTBA either includes land which could not be reasonably expected to benefit from the PTBA or excludes land which could be reasonably expected to benefit.
- Within 60 days of the establishment of the PTBA boundaries through the resolution, any city within the PTBA may withdraw from participation.
These steps make up the process for modifying the boundaries of a PTBA. The effect of such change on a PTBA’s governing body, in this case our Board of Commissioners, is less certain. RCW 36.57A.050 states that: “within sixty days of the establishment of the boundaries of the public transportation benefit area the members of the county legislative authority and the elected representative of each city within the area shall provide for the selection of the governing body of such area, the public transportation benefit area authority, which shall consist of elected officials selected by and serving at the pleasure of the governing bodies of component cities within the area and the county legislative areas.”