Community Government

Varying boundaries influence how we live, what taxes we pay

Posted on April 15th, 2024 By:

The Gig Harbor area is marked by several boundaries. Where they lie and what they mean has cropped up in recent stories.

For example, a new Pierce Transit Runner van service only operates within the agency’s service area. That zone mirrors Gig Harbor’s city limits plus a sliver of land extending north that encompasses the Purdy park-and-ride lot. People can get on-demand rides anywhere within that zone because businesses there pay retail sales taxes supporting Pierce Transit.

The Gig Harbor urban growth area (UGA) was the focus of a story about the county contemplating retracting it, particularly from the Purdy area. UGAs abut cities and allow higher-density development than rural, unincorporated land. They are considered potential annexation targets.

And last year, PenMet Parks and Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One placed levy lid lifts on the ballot for residents in their districts. PenMet comprises unincorporated Pierce County between the Tacoma Narrows and Purdy bridges. The fire department covers the same area, plus the Gig Harbor city limits.

This map shows Gig Harbor’s Urban Growth Area, marked by dotted lines. Urban growth areas allow higher density development than rural unincorporated land and are considered potential annexation targets for adjoining cities. Source: Berk Consulting (commissioned by the city of Gig Harbor.)

Gig Harbor city limits

The city of Gig Harbor comprises 3,924 acres, or 6.1 square miles. Within its boundaries reside 12,484 people (2022 U.S. Census estimate).

Locations in unincorporated Pierce County also have Gig Harbor mailing addresses, which causes confusion. The city’s Interactive City Boundary Map can clarify whether a home or business is within the city limits or in unincorporated Pierce County. Just punch in an address.

Residents pay a tax of 70 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to the city. An April 23 special election proposition asks voters to raise the rate to $1.10. The city is authorized to levy a maximum rate of $1.60. The current rate has fallen because without a voter-approved levy lid lift, state law restricts property tax collections to 1% more than the previous year.

The City Council also voted to place a sales tax increase before voters on the Aug. 6 primary election ballot. The 0.1% increase would raise the rate from 8.9% to 9.0%.

2024 property tax breakdown for Gig Harbor city residents.

2024 property tax breakdown for Gig Harbor city residents. Courtesy of Pierce County

The city is governed by a strong mayor — currently Tracie Markley — and seven part-time, nonpartisan council members elected at-large. All serve four-year terms. All receive modest salaries. The Council meets on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Civic Center, 3510 Grandview St.

Urban growth area

Gig Harbor, under the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan, has identified an urban growth area of 2,800 acres surrounding the city, which are potential annexation targets. The largest areas are Canterwood (680 acres), Peacock Hill (464), Purdy (415), Reid Road (341) and East Bay (246).

In the comp plan update underway this year, Pierce County might for the first time strip UGA status from some areas — including Purdy and two smaller slices of land next to Gig Harbor.

Urban growth areas are part of unincorporated Pierce County until they are annexed, and their residents pay taxes accordingly.

Unincorporated Gig Harbor

The Gig Harbor Peninsula Census tract comprises 54.3 square miles with a 2022 estimated population of 56,043. The tract includes the Wauna area that locals associate with the Key Peninsula instead of the Gig Harbor Peninsula. Removing those residents and the city of Gig Harbor, the population of the Gig Harbor Peninsula is about 40,000.

2024 breakdown of property taxes for residents of the unincorporated Gig Harbor area.

2024 breakdown of property taxes for residents of the unincorporated Gig Harbor area.

Unincorporated Pierce County is governed by a county executive — currently Bruce Dammeier — and county council members from seven geographic districts. All are elected to four-year paid terms. The Gig Harbor Peninsula, including Fox Island, is part of District 7, which also comprises Key Peninsula and parts of north and west Tacoma. Robyn Denson of Gig Harbor began representing the district in 2023. The Council meets every Tuesday in its chambers (Room 1046), 930 Tacoma Ave. South in Tacoma.

Peninsula School District

Peninsula School District serves Pierce County students on the west side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It includes three high schools (Peninsula, Gig Harbor and Henderson Bay), four middle schools (Key Peninsula, Harbor Ridge, Kopachuck and Goodman) and 10 elementaries (Artondale, Discovery, Evergreen, Harbor Heights, Minter Creek, Pioneer, Purdy, Swift Water, Vaughn and Voyager).

School attendance is geographic except for Pioneer, a STEAM school that accepts students from across the district by lottery when space is available. Two elementaries feed each middle school except Key Peninsula, which has three.

Property owners pay the district $1.13 per $1,000 of assessed value for a replacement educational programs and operations levy and $.25 for a safety, security and technology levy. The total local school tax rate, including both levies and a construction bond, is $1.82 per $1,000 of assessed value. The $198.55 million bond passed in 2019 was used to build four new elementary schools and upgrade two middle schools.

The Peninsula School District is governed by a board of volunteer directors elected from five geographic districts. Their terms are four years. Meetings are typically held the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. at Swift Water Elementary, 10811 Harbor Hill Drive.

Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One

Fire District 5, or Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One as it’s called, serves the entire Gig Harbor Peninsula — unincorporated and city — from nine stations.

Property owners are paying $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value for firefighting, $.50 per $1,000 for emergency medical services and $.24 per $1,000 for a 20-year, $80 million bond to build a training center, replace Station 51 on Kimball Drive and renovate Stations 53 on Fox Island, 57 on Crescent Valley Drive, 58 on Swede Hill and 59 in Artondale.

Five elected commissioners who serve six-year terms govern the district. They earn a stipend for conducting district business. They meet the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5 p.m. at district headquarters, 10222 Bujacich Road.

Key Peninsula Fire

Pierce County Fire Protection District No. 16, known as the Key Peninsula Fire Department, serves the entire 65-square-mile Pierce County peninsula from six stations. Residents support it with $1.41 per $1,000 in assessed property value for firefighting, $.34 for emergency medical services and $.16 for maintenance and operations.

The district is governed by five commissioners elected to 6-year terms. One position is currently open. Commissioners receive a stipend for district business. Commissioners meet at 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at the Key Center headquarters, 8911 Key Peninsula Highway NW.

PenMet Parks

The unincorporated area from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the Purdy bridge and the Kitsap County line comprises the PenMet Parks district. PenMet is authorized to collect up to $.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value, but the state 1% cap has reduced the rate to $.58. Gig Harbor city residents are not in the PenMet district and don’t contribute property taxes to it. There is a small area where residents pay both Gig Harbor and PenMet taxes because the city grew into the area that was in PenMet boundaries.

PenMet Parks is governed by a five-member, at-large board of commissioners who are elected to six-year terms. The commissioners meet at 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at PenMet administrative headquarters, 2416 14th Ave. NW.

Key Peninsula Parks

The Key Pen Parks boundaries include all of Key Peninsula, abutted to the west and north by Mason and Kitsap counties. Local residents support the district with a $.33 per $1,000 of assessed value tax on property.

A five-person elected board governs the district. Members are eligible to receive stipends for their work. They meet the second Monday of every month at 7 p.m. at Home Fire Station 47, 1921 Key Peninsula Highway NW.

Pierce Transit

The Pierce Transit service area mirrors the Gig Harbor city limits, with the exception that it also includes a sliver of land north of the city that encompasses the Purdy park-and-ride lot. A new, on-demand Runner van service operates within those boundaries, though anybody in the zone can hop aboard regardless of where they live.

A .6% sales tax — 6 cents on a $10 purchase — is collected within the service boundaries to support Pierce Transit.

Map of Pierce Transit Runner's Gig Harbor zone

Runner vans can only operate within Pierce Transit’s service boundaries, which is largely the Gig Harbor city limits. Courtesy of Pierce Transit

Pierce Transit is governed by a nine-member board of commissioners made up of elected officials representing Pierce County, Tacoma, Lakewood, Puyallup, University Place and the smaller cities and towns in Pierce County, plus a 10th non-voting union representative. None are currently from the Gig Harbor area. Members can receive per diem for board activities, but not if they already receive full-time compensation from their government job. They meet on the second Monday of each month at 4 p.m. at the Pierce Transit training center, 3720 96th St. SW, Lakewood.

26th Legislative District

The 26th Legislative District covers parts of Kitsap and Pierce counties, including Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, the Key Peninsula, and part of Bremerton. Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Gig Harbor, and Rep. Spencer Hutchins, R-Gig Harbor, represent the district in Olympia. Randall has announced she is running for Congress, though she wouldn’t lose her state seat if she doesn’t win. Both representative seats are up for election in November. Hutchins announced he isn’t running for re-election.

6th Congressional District

Washington’s 6th Congressional District encompasses the Olympic Peninsula, the Kitsap Peninsula, and most of the city of Tacoma. Gig Harbor Democrat Derek Kilmer represents the district in Washington, D.C. Kilmer announced last year that he won’t run for re-election in November.