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Kent City Council candidates debate B&O tax
Four candidates in the two Kent City Council races took on city taxes as part of a debate Wednesday at the ShoWare Center.
Jim Berrios said at the Kent Chamber of Commerce luncheon event that he wants to dump the city's business and occupation (B&O) tax while opponent Wade Schwartz supports the tax adopted last year by the council.
"We need to get people excited about doing business in Kent," said Berrios, owner of the Golden Steer Steak 'n Rib House on the East Hill and president of the Kent Chamber of Commerce. "And eventually we have got to get rid of that ugly B&O tax."
Schwartz, who owns Blanc-n-Schwartz Salon in downtown Kent, favors the B&O tax that helps pay for street repairs by bringing in about $5 million per year.
"We need to make sure we're paying for what we are using and if we don't replace what we are using we are going to end up with nothing," Schwartz said. "I support the B&O. I think we need to make sure that we are watching it like clock watchers and are using it wisely."
The winner between Berrios and Schwartz replaces Jamie Perry, who decided not to run for reelection. Council members are paid $13,752 per year for their part-time positions.
King County Elections will mail ballots Oct. 16. Ballots are due back postmarked by election day Nov. 5.
The other race features Bailey Stober and Ken Sharp. The winner will replace Elizabeth Albertson, who decided not to seek reelection.
Stober let it be known that he thinks the city needs to show stronger support for businesses with fewer taxes.
"I've heard around town that businesses don't pay their fair share (of taxes)," said Stober, who wants to evaluate the city's tax structure compared to neighboring cities. "I met a lady not too long ago who owns a small business across from Kent-Meridian High School and she talked about the tax increases.
"The City Council last year passed five tax increases including the B&O. In her case, not only does she own a business she lives in Kent so she's paying nine tax increases in one year, four residential and five business taxes. So to say the city of Kent is being fair to business owners, I don't necessarily agree with that statement."
Sharp, although he opposes the B&O tax, thinks the city pays attention to the needs of businesses but could do an even better job.
"I don't think the city is purposely ignoring the businesses or there is a lack of understanding," said Sharp, who owns Minuteman Press in Kent and served as the Chamber president last year. "I think part of the problem is how the city operates. They have a lot of things to do and sometimes their focus is diverted away from bringing in businesses. The council is to provide focus for the city, and as a council member, I will help bring that focus to them to bring more attention to the businesses."
Sharp remains in the race despite first-degree theft charges filed by King County prosecutors against him for allegedly stealing money from his 93-year-old mother's bank account. Sharp pleaded not guilty to the charges on Aug. 29 in King County Superior Court. He is scheduled to return to court Nov. 20.
Stober announced at the debate that he resigned Monday as executive assistant to the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs to take a job as a project analyst with the Washington State Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises.