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Thursday, June 15, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Everett now willing to entertain CT offer

Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau

EVERETT

This time, no shotguns are in sight.

Community Transit's latest marriage proposal to Everett Transit was politely tendered with the verbal equivalent of a bouquet of flowers. We don't want to assimilate you, CT leaders told Everett officials yesterday. Let's join and create a new agency with a new name, they said.

That's a far cry from recent efforts of the state Legislature to forcefully combine the two public agencies, which provide the only overlapping bus service in the state. Merger bills were introduced - but not passed - in 1992, 1994 and earlier this year.

In the past, Everett has declined to seriously discuss giving up its autonomous bus system. This time, the city seems willing to study CT's proposal.

"I think the spirit of having some discussion is good," said Everett Mayor Ed Hansen, who met yesterday with CT Executive Director Joyce Olson, CT board Chairman Bob Ostrom and CT board Vice Chair woman Pat Cordova. Several Everett City Council members attended the meeting in Hansen's office as well.

The biggest questions, Hansen said, would concern Everett's control over service decisions and the benefits the city would get if its transit taxes were raised. Everett residents now pay a 0.3 percent sales tax for transit, compared with the 0.6 percent tax charged within CT's service areas.

Hansen said he was "mildly surprised" by CT's offer to create a new agency.

"In the past what has generally been proposed was what some might characterize as a takeover . . . where Everett would become a part of Community Transit," Hansen said.

CT was created in 1975 as a Public Transit Benefit Area corporation (PTBA), and neighborhoods and cities voted to be annexed into it.

If Everett joined CT, then the new agency would probably operate under the legal authority of the PTBA, Olsen said. That would require raising Everett's sales tax, she said.

CT is struggling with the consequences of Initiative 695, which set state car-tab fees at a flat $30 per vehicle. That measure cost CT more than $18 million a year, or about 30 percent of its operating budget.

The Legislature recently authorized transit agencies to ask voters to raise their sales taxes to 0.9 percent. CT officials planned to take that proposal to Snohomish County voters next year.

If CT and Everett Transit were combined, however, that might not be necessary, Olsen said yesterday.

If Everett's transit tax were doubled to match CT's, then the sales tax collected for transit within the city would increase to $15 million, Olsen has estimated. That might allow CT to restore weekend bus and van services that were eliminated because of I-695 budget cuts.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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