County parks levies get panel's OK
The Metropolitan King County Council has moved a step closer to asking voters in the August primary to levy $217 million in property taxes...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Metropolitan King County Council has moved a step closer to asking voters in the August primary to levy $217 million in property taxes to maintain and expand parks.
The council's operating-budget committee voted Tuesday in favor of putting two levies on the ballot: one to extend an existing parks-maintenance levy for six years, another to buy more parks and open space. Placing the levies on the ballot requires action by the full County Council.
The two parks levies were proposed by a citizen task force and sent to the council by County Executive Ron Sims. Each would increase property taxes by 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Each would cost the owner of a $400,000 house $20 a year.
With the region's population projected to grow by more than 1 million by 2025, Councilwoman Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac, said, "We are going to need these services; we are going to need these amenities."
Patterson and two fellow Democrats, Dow Constantine and Bob Ferguson, voted to put both levies on the ballot.
Councilman Reagan Dunn, R-Bellevue, supported renewal of the existing levy, which voters approved in 2003 to keep parks open during a budget shortfall.
He cast the only vote against the capital levy, saying it could jeopardize his top funding priority: passage of a regional tax increase to fund highway projects and a Sound Transit expansion. Approval of the transportation ballot measure could mean $150 more in sales taxes each year for an average household, and $68 in new car-tab taxes for an average car, based on state tax data.
"We just can't do all of it," Dunn said. "There are a lot of folks out there who are struggling already in this highly taxed region."
He said extension of the Medic One levy this fall also could raise a typical household's taxes by $20 a year.
Constantine said he shared Dunn's concern, but, he said, "My concern about the [parks] expansion levy is not that it's too much, but that the need is so great, it's too little."
Renewal of the existing levy would restore park maintenance to pre-2003 levels. The capital levy would devote 3 cents out of every nickel to county open-space and trails purchases, 1 cent to cities' park projects, and 1 cent to the Woodland Park Zoo.
The ordinances putting the measures on the ballot specify that if voters reject the maintenance levy in August, it would be placed on the November ballot, but the expansion levy would not.
Staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this report. Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com
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