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Metropolitan King County
Council News

Council sends sales tax increase to maintain public safety, replace Juvenile Justice Center to November Ballot


Adopted legislation repeals sales tax measure sent to ballot July 19


The Metropolitan King County Council today approved sending to the voters in November a proposal to fund criminal justice services by raising the sales and use tax in King County by two-tenths of one percent. If adopted, the revenue raised by the measure would go entirely to public safety services and include funds for the replacement of the County’s aging Youth Services Center.

In voting to place this measure before voters, the Council acted to repeal the sales tax measure adopted at its July 19 meeting. By including financing for the Youth Center as part of sales tax measure, the Council will no longer need to consider a separate funding source for construction of the facility.

The County’s Youth Services Center, located on 12th and Alder, provides juvenile justice services in King County, including the hearing of juvenile, runaway, and child abuse and neglect cases, juvenile detention and rehabilitation, and family support for those navigating the legal system. Sections of the facility are roughly 40 years old and have significant maintenance needs, including over $20 million of repairs to basic plumbing, heating, and electrical systems.

In a letter to Council Chair Ferguson, the County’s elected public safety officials urged the Council to address the condition of the facility by dedicating funds toward the replacement of the Youth Center. This proposal will “resolve the urgent need to replace the decrepit juvenile court facility located at 12th and Alder, while still providing operating revenues for the criminal justice system,” wrote Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Sheriff Sue Rahr, District Court Presiding Judge Barbara Linde, and Superior Court Presiding Judge Bruce Hilyer.

If approved by voters, the increase would generate approximately $35 million in revenue for King County in 2011 and $48 million in 2012, the first full year the tax would be collected. Under the proposal, 100 percent of the County’s portion of the proceeds would be used to maintain criminal justice services, including Sheriff deputies, the courts, the Prosecutor’s Office and Public Defense. Funds would also be directed towards funding the construction of the Youth Services Center.

The County currently faces a projected deficit of $60 million in its $620 million general fund for 2011. Over 75 percent of general fund dollars pay for criminal justice and public safety services.

By state law, forty percent of the tax proceeds would go to the 39 cities within King County based on their population. State law requires that cities must spend one-third of the proceeds on criminal justice services.

One-tenth of one percent of the proposed sales tax increase would sunset after three years. The second one-tenth of one percent would sunset in 20 years to allow the County to sell long-term debt to finance the construction of the Youth Center.

Along with an increase in the sales tax, the measure would use a portion of the County’s unincorporated area levy—$9.5 million in 2011—to fund police services in the County’s unincorporated communities.

If signed by the County Executive, this measure would be placed on the November 2, 2010 general election ballot.

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