King County residents should vote yes for a modest increase in the well-spent King County Veterans and Human Services Levy.
SOME people believe Seattle voters have never met a tax they didn’t like, but the need is so great that some taxes are easy to embrace, even in more conservative parts of King County.
For the past 12 years, King County homeowners have paid a relatively modest property tax to provide housing, employment and support services for veterans and the homeless. The levy adds senior citizens for the first time this election.
The return on that investment has been good, and voters should vote yes on Proposition 1 to continue the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy with an increase for the next six years.
In 2016, the levy paid for more than 8,000 emergency-shelter bed nights for homeless veterans, and connected 853 formerly homeless residents with permanent supportive housing. The money helped 243 incarcerated veterans re-enter society with job resources or education, housing and health care. More than 4,000 parents and caregivers and their nearly 5,000 children were able to participate in a countywide play-and-learn program, thanks to the levy.
Proposition 1 asks voters to approve a 10-cent property tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value, or $65 per year for a $650,000 median-priced King County home. That’s double the current levy of 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The levy is expected to raise about $51 million per year, or $343 million over six years.
The services the levy would pay for are greatly needed by a growing population of seniors and homeless people and those in danger of losing their homes. Some who benefit from these services fit all three categories.
The county has done a good job tracking the work and making sure the money is well spent since the levy first passed in 2005 and was renewed in 2011, but there’s always room for improvement. With more money to spend, if the tax measure passes, county officials must keep accountability measures strong and quickly drop any service providers that aren’t meeting their goals.
The distribution of funds may also need tweaking, since the county’s senior population is growing at a fast pace. King County officials also want to fill in senior program funding gaps after the United Way of King County shifted its priorities toward youth and homelessness.
The increasing tax burden on King County homeowners — because of legislative action to pay for education and voter approval of Sound Transit 3 — might make it harder to support an increase in property taxes. But an extra $32.50 a year for a median-priced home is still a modest ask. Advocates for Prop 1 say one of their goals is to inform more low-income seniors that they can apply for tax breaks.
This proposal should be an easy yes vote for King County residents.