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Councilmembers propose “Tax Neutral” solution to County budget crisis


Metropolitan King County
Council News

Councilmembers propose “Tax Neutral” solution to County budget crisis


Plan would place proposal before voters in November


Four members of the Metropolitan King County Council today announced a plan to reprioritize county taxes to support criminal justice. Those Councilmembers voted against a sales tax increase for the August ballot at today’s Council meeting because not enough had been done to reduce the impact on taxpayers. The measure would have added two-tenths of one percent to the sales tax, bringing the general sales tax to 9.7%, and 10.2% for hotels and restaurants in the greater Seattle area.

This morning, Council Chair Bob Ferguson announced a special meeting tomorrow morning to consider a plan to raise property taxes and partially offset them with some cuts. The total cost to the average homeowner would be $34 per year.

Councilmembers Reagan Dunn, Kathy Lambert, Pete von Reichbauer, and Council Vice Chair Jane Hague will offer an alternative plan at the special meeting that would provide necessary funding to the courts, prosecutor, and sheriff, without raising additional taxes during a recession.

“Voters are demanding that government prioritize vital services while respecting the pain felt by working families across King County,” said Dunn. “We are finally getting to that discussion here at King County.”

“With unemployment at 9 percent, many can’t afford to pay additional taxes right now. Our budget needs to be sustainable, and we need to fix the structural gap instead of just applying another Band-aid,” said Lambert. “This plan represents a starting point for maintaining our criminal justice system. We look forward to working with our colleagues over the next 60 days, as well as working with our cities and public safety leaders to create a plan that funds our priorities while respecting taxpayers.”

The new proposal would allow voters to reprioritize over $43 million in property taxes for existing county services, and redirect them to the criminal justice services. This plan be would a net property tax adjustment of 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation dedicated to criminal justice that would sunset in four years. To offset this amount and not overburden voters during a recession, the plan would allow voters to reduce the following taxes:

• Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) – Reduce property tax levy $3 million out of the total $15.5 million collected annually.
• Conservation Futures – Reduce property tax levy $1.5 million of the total $16.7 million collect annually.
• Parks Expansion – Eliminate collection of the final 2 years of the $18.5 million of the parks expansion levy.
• Flood Protection Levy – Reduce property tax levy $4.5 million of the total $35 million collected annually.
• Transit / Ferry District Tax – Reduce property tax levy $10 million of the total $600 million annual transit budget.
• Roads Transfer – Transfer $6 million from the unincorporated levy for criminal justice purposes.

This plan would add no cost for the average household in King County. If approved, the plan would go to voters at the November ballot, when voter turnout is higher.

“If you are serious about voting and Democracy, you can’t play games with election dates,” said von Reichbauer. “A proposal of this magnitude must go on the ballot when the majority of citizens are participating.”

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