Seattle Mayor Ed Murray won’t propose a public-safety levy to help pay for a new North Seattle police precinct because he says funding is covered.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray won’t propose a public-safety levy to help pay for a new North Seattle police precinct.
Murray had previously talked about seeking voter approval for a property-tax levy to raise money for the $160 million construction project.
In August 2014, the mayor said he would ask the City Council to begin planning for a levy to help pay for public-safety needs; part of that was for a new computer system to track police work, including instances in which officers use force.
But Murray on Friday said the levy won’t be needed because the city has been collecting record sums through its Real Estate Excise Tax (REET).
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He said construction on the new precinct is scheduled to begin next year, with the building set to open in 2019.
Seattle pulled in $73 million last year through the tax on commercial and residential real-estate transactions, and officials expect collections to remain strong.
They’re projecting REET collections of $56 million in both 2016 and 2017, $60 million in 2018 and $64 million in 2019, according to a Murray news release. Collections have been increasing since 2009, when they were $23 million.
“Because of our vibrant local economy and vigorous real-estate sales, we can construct our new North Precinct within existing and projected resources,” the mayor said in the release.
The new North Precinct building at Aurora Avenue North and North 130th Street in Bitter Lake will replace the North Precinct at 10049 College Way N. in Northgate.
Built in 1984 and meant to accommodate 154 staff, the current precinct now houses more than 250, according to the release.
Officials already have appropriated $21 million for the project. Murray on Friday proposed using a combination of REET receipts, 30-year bonds financed by future REET receipts and one-time sales of other city assets to raise the remaining $139 million.
City Councilmember Debora Juarez, whose District 5 covers North Seattle, supports the mayor’s plan.
“Public safety and community policing are high priorities for Seattle residents,” she said in Murray’s release.
Councilmember Mike O’Brien, whose District 6 also is served by the North Precinct, shared several concerns, however.
O’Brien said Friday he believes the $160 million price tag is too large. He said he wants the mayor and Police Department to take another look at whether it makes sense to spend so much on a single building when the city has finite resources for a number of public-safety needs.
“I want to have a system that really encourages officers to be spending the bulk of their time out in our communities,” O’Brien said. “I have some concerns about a building with a fitness center and a shooting range and other amenities, maybe encouraging officers to hang out a little longer.”
In the meantime, he said, he’s worried the timeline cited by Murray won’t allow enough time for the Police Department to gather input from groups in Seattle who’ve been treated unfairly by officers in the past.
Those groups should get to take part in designing the precinct, he said, noting the Police Department is still operating under a consent decree with the Department of Justice related to use of force and bias in policing.
For the past year, the city has helped Mary’s Place provide shelter to families experiencing homelessness in an old building on the site of the new precinct. That will continue for now, the mayor said.