Sims to seek $210 million in levies for county parks
King County Executive Ron Sims shut down parks because of a budget shortfall five years ago, leading voters to raise property taxes to fund...
Seattle Times staff reporter
King County Executive Ron Sims shut down parks because of a budget shortfall five years ago, leading voters to raise property taxes to fund them.
Now, even though the crisis is over, Sims wants $210 million in levies to maintain and expand the county's parks and open spaces.
The proposed tax package, announced Thursday, includes two six-year property-tax levies: a $105 million renewal of the 2003 parks operations levy and a new $105 million levy to buy open space, extend trails and support the Woodland Park Zoo.
Each would add 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to a county property owner's annual tax bill. If approved, the owner of a $400,000 house in Seattle would pay another $20 per levy, or $40 if both pass.
Sims said this "very modest investment" would "ensure that critical open space and water quality are preserved."
The owner of a $400,000 Seattle home this year will pay $463 for voter-approved county and city levies.
Metropolitan King County Councilman Dow Constantine, chair of the Capital Budget Committee, said he hopes to put the levies on the ballot for the Aug. 21 primary election.
Sims based the proposed levies — which require County Council approval to get on the ballot — on recommendations from a citizen task force.
"Our population is going to grow tremendously, and our parks are really heavily used now," said Louise Miller, a member of the task force and former County Council member. The task force felt "it was important to be sure we continued to have access to open space."
Based on the results of a privately funded poll of 600 county voters, the task force suggested a 7-cent tax increase for the parks maintenance levy, which Sims trimmed to 5 cents. The current levy, which expires at the end of this year, makes up more than half of the parks department's $25 million annual budget.
The department has sought private sources of funding through advertising and sponsorship, which make up 21 percent of its income.
Sims kept the task force's recommendation for a new $105 million levy, $63 million to buy open space and extend regional trails. The parks department wants to build connections for the East Lake Sammamish Trail, the Soos Creek Trail and the Sammamish River Trail and East Lake Sammamish Trail.
About $21 million would go to cities to buy open space, and another $21 million would go to the Woodland Park Zoo to expand its educational programs countywide.
The city-owned zoo, which is run by a nonprofit, could face a revenue shortfall when the Seattle parks levy expires at the end of 2008.
It's not clear whether Mayor Greg Nickels will push for a renewal of that levy, which will have raised about $198 million over eight years. He has talked about proposing a levy to fund improvements to Pike Place Market and Seattle Center.
Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Young contributed to this report.
Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.