NEWS BRIEFS Dec. 22, 2001

Military receives hefty pay raise

NAS Whidbey sailors and other military personnel were given their biggest pay raise in two decades when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Defense Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2002 on Thursday.

Salaries will be increased by at least 4.6 percent. Improved housing benefits were also included in the bill resulting, in lower housing costs for military members, said Second District Congressman Rick Larsen, who serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Larsen said the bill provides the largest military pay raise since 1982 and will take effect almost immediately, with pay going up as of Jan. 1, 2002.

The bill includes a provision that will increase the basic housing allowance so that out-of-pocket housing expenses for military members are reduced from the current 15 percent level to 11.3 percent in fiscal year 2002.

The Senate passed the same bill, which now awaits only the President’s signature to become law.

Ferries, buses lose passengers

Saying their systems are still reeling from the loss of tax revenue in the wake of 1999’s Initiative 695 and from a general travel slowdown, officials at both Island Transit and Washington State Ferries say their rider counts declined in 2001 compared to the year before.

The biggest rider decrease was on the ferries, according to Ray Deardorf of Washington State Ferries. Only one ferry run in the state, the Anacortes-Orcas run, carried more passengers this year than last, and the increase was only 0.1 percent. On the Mukilteo-Clinton route, 3.7 million passengers made the trip this year, down 74,000 from 2000. The Port Townsend-Keystone run declined as well.

Deardorf said the ferry system suffered many of its losses after Sept. 11. “Traffic didn’t rebound like we expected,” he said.

Martha Rose, Island Transit director, said bus ridership was down in 2000 and the first half of 2001. However, with new funding sources and added routes, she expects ridership to increase in 2002.

State gives planning cash

All three cities in Island County have received state grants to help them update their comprehensive plans.

The Washington State Office of Community Development announced Tuesday that Oak Harbor will receive $26,250, Coupeville $10,000, and Langley $5,250. In addition, Island County government will receive $78,750.

State-wide, the office distributed $5.4 million to 214 local governments.

The grants were approved by the Legislature and are aimed at helping communities review and update plans and regulations adopted under the Growth Management Act.

Holidays delay the trash person

Due to Christmas and New Year’s holidays, garbage and recycleables usually collected in Oak Harbor on Tuesdays will be collected on Wednesdays. There will be no change in Wednesday’s service.

Register for Coupeville vote

Coupeville School District will have a four-year maintenance and operation levy on the Feb. 5 election ballot. The last day to register to vote in that election will be Jan. 6, according to Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair. The one exception is for those registering in-person at at Auditor’s Office, in which case the deadline is Jan. 21. The deadlines also apply to those wishing to transfer their registration from one precinct to another.

The four-year levy approved by the school board asks for $1.54 million for the first year in 2003, rising to $1.78 million in the final year of 2006. It will replace an existing four-year levy which this year is costing property owners $1.35 per thousand of assessed value.

There will be no levy election on Feb. 5 in Oak Harbor. Elsewhere in Island County, South Whidbey and Stanwood school districts will have levies on the Feb. 5 ballot.

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