If King County voters approve Proposition 1, the Veterans and Human Services Levy is expected to collect more than $100 million over the next six years. An average homeowner would pay an estimated $17 in 2012.

Share story

Find someone against the Veterans and Human Services Levy. It isn’t easy.

No one submitted a statement opposing it in the Aug. 16 primary voters pamphlet.

All nine members of the Metropolitan King County Council — even its fiscal conservatives — voted to send it to the ballot. Even the one member who voted against the levy six years ago, Kathy Lambert, now supports renewing it.

If county voters approve Proposition 1, the levy is expected to collect between $102 million and $108 million over the next six years. The owner of a $340,000 home, the county’s median home value, would pay an estimated $17 in 2012.

Half of the money would go to services for veterans, military personnel and their families; the other half to services for the county’s neediest residents, including the homeless.

Under the current levy, passed in 2005 with about 58 percent of the vote, property owners pay five cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

With the renewed levy, total collections would increase at a rate of no less than 1 percent and no more than 3 percent a year, depending on the rate of inflation. Assuming that the number and value of properties increase, the cost to the average homeowner is projected to decrease by less than a dollar each year after 2012.

The levy funds an array of programs, including:

• Emergency shelter and counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans.

• A medical van that provides primary, dental and psychiatric care for homeless people at clinics across the county.

• Mortgage or rental assistance to protect families from eviction.

At least nine city councils have passed resolutions endorsing the levy.

Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis, a Navy veteran, says the levy has reduced emergency-room visits and jail time by veterans, saving the county money.

“I’m very fiscally conservative, but this is an example of penny-wise, pound-foolish. By not doing this, it will cost us much more,” Lewis said.

A recent county report on new housing projects offering case management and counseling — funded in part by the levy — estimated the county saved more than $600,000 in 2010 by reducing the number of frequent users of the county courts, rehab programs, jails and health services.

In 2010 the levy served 4,600 veterans, military personnel and their families, and 8,600 people who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, according to the county.

Since 2005, it has helped pay for 1,200 new permanent housing units for the homeless.

“I do believe the levy is one of the best things the county does,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, who introduced the levy six years ago.

Ferguson said the County Council debated increasing the levy rate, given that human-services funding has shrunk drastically since the levy’s passage.

In 2011, the majority of the county’s human services were covered by $257 million in state and federal funding. But a recent county report said human services received less than $1 million from the county’s general fund in 2011, down from $16.4 million in 2008.

“That’s a huge, huge drop,” said Lambert, who voted against the levy in 2005 because she thought it should have been a veterans-only levy.

With cuts in human services since that time, Lambert’s position on the levy, including its human-services component, has changed.

J.B. Wogan: 206-464-2206 or jwogan@seattletimes.com