Venturing Into Uncharted Waters

Dear Commissioners,

First, I want to thank you for the Public Hearing you held on June 8, 2023.  Although I have written several letters regarding the proposed fares and spoken twice in front of you,  I want to ask you to postpone the total implementation of the fares as proposed  on June 10, 2023.  While I am not against the 14% overall increase, I believe that there needs to be more public discussion about some of the other parts of the proposal before it is accepted.

1) Do not rescind the existing Resolution No. 20110382 which specifically  details the procedure for setting fares. This Resolution requires more public input and a collaborative process with Public Works and Guemes Islanders.  This process was ignored in the new proposal and replaced by an expensive consultant and an autocratic approach by Public Works which demonstrates a complete disregard for a process that has worked well for over 40 years and has had the support of all previous Commissioners and Public Works Directors.  There is nothing wrong with the existing Resolution which relies on facts not guesswork.  The new fare proposal outlined by the ferry manager on June 8,  the words “best guess” were used numerous times when describing how it would work.  This is the very thing that we had eliminated in all the years that I served on the Ferry Committee from 1981 through 2013.

2) Please acknowledge the property taxes collected from Guemes Island.  In 2023 the road fund taxes collected from Guemes Island will be $787,523.  If that amount was credited to the ferry operation, there would no need to double our fares over the next five years.  Skagit County certainly doesn’t spend that much on the roads of Guemes annually.

3) Please recognize that the real estate sales on Guemes are a large contributor of money to Skagit County coffers. Without the ferry, it is hard to imagine just where real estate prices would be. In 2021, real estate sales were $20,611,000.  In 2022, real estate sales were $23,956,750.  Although it is  difficult to determine the exact amount of real estate excise tax collected from Guemes Island sales, it could be easily calculate if some effort was given to the task. I did find out from Public Works that in 2014, the BOCC allocated $500,000 of the real estate excise tax to the Road Fund and in 2022, $13,366 was allocated to Young Park on Guemes.  Why not allocate some of the real estate  excise tax to the Guemes Ferry operation on an annual basis?

I hope you will consider my points and postpone the entire adoption ( except for the 14%) of the new fare proposal until more public input has been received through public meetings and with the Guemes Island Ferry Committee as outlined in Resolution No. 20110382.  There is no need to venture off into "uncharted waters” when a methodology exists that has withstood the test of time for over 40 years.

- Glen Veal

Tags: ferry