News

Tax-for-parks goes to voters

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

By this time next week, King County will know if voters support the county’s parks and recreation facilities enough to raise one of their taxes.

A levy proposing an additional 4.9 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation of homes and property countywide is on next Tuesday’s special-election ballot. If approved, the additional tariff would be collected for four consecutive years.

The owner of a house valued at $250,000, for example, would pay $12.25 per year if the levy passes.

In March, the Metropolitan County Council authorized the ballot measure after agreeing with County Executive Ron Sims and a citizens’ task force that a tax increase would be the best way to prop up the financially ailing parks system.

As the county wrestled last year with a massive projected budget deficit, Sims warned that parks and other county-operated recreation facilities could close because of a lack of money for operating them. To partially offset the budget shortfall, the county transferred some facilities to other government jurisdictions, such as Kenneth Jones Pool to the city of Federal Way.

A task force appointed by Sims studied several other options for boosting park funds and recommended the levy.

The measure authorized by the council is slightly less expensive to taxpayers than the six-year, 5-cents-per-$1,000 package originally proposed by the task force.

Officials say revenue from Proposition 1, as the measure appears on ballots, would be spent on the operations of regional facilities, such as Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way. Rural parks also would benefit.

Council supporters of the levy have said the county’s plans for maintaining the parks system depends on a stable source of money.

A simple majority of yes or no votes will decide the levy election’s outcome.

County election officials predict 38 percent of the approximately 1 million “active” registered voters in the county will cast absentee ballots or go to the polls when they’re open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Voters didn’t take kindly to the last countywide levy. A proposal by the King County Library System to raise property taxes by 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation received a 51 percent yes vote, but was far short of the 60 percent approval that was required for passage.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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