Coming soon: ballots loaded with money requests
The tax levies are coming to Seattle and King County. A number of community needs — libraries, a sea wall, fingerprinting systems, juvenile justice and more are coming to a ballot near you. Without a system of ranking such requests, the voter faces ballot overload and must pick and choose carefully.
Seattle Times Editorial
AH, springtime in the Northwest. 'Tis the season to load the ballot with money requests of taxpayers. It looks like another busy year for property-tax levies in Seattle and King County.
The Seattle City Council will ask the kindly, literate voters of Seattle to raise property taxes a bit during the next seven years to boost library services citywide. Libraries have taken several budget hits in recent years. The next budget foretells of more overall cuts and, presumably, more gloom for libraries.
The Metropolitan King County Council is preparing to ask voters for a new $200 million property-tax levy to replace the county's rundown Youth Services Center, near Seattle University. The nine-year levy, if the council sends it to the ballot, would cost the owner of a median-priced home roughly $25 a year.
County Councilmember Bob Ferguson, a levy proponent, understands the challenge of asking for new taxes in a tepid economy but the complex, which includes courtrooms, jail cells, offices and a school, is in dire need of an upgrade. County leaders have been talking about the problem for years, but it remains a tough sell in a difficult economy.
The juvenile-justice and library levies are aimed at the August primary ballot, but that's not all. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wants voters to buck up for a $270 million property-tax levy to replace the sea wall along the waterfront. The current one is failing, after years of wear and tear and, well, gribbles, little creatures eating away at support structures.
The mayor, working with the City Council, is aiming for the November ballot, but nothing has been formally introduced. The mayor has been talking about the need to fix this since he first took office but the City Council only agreed, so far, to pay for design work.
King County voters will be asked in November to renew the so-called AFIS levy, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System that connects the county to regional, state and national networks. Voters in the region have renewed this levy four times since 1986. AFIS gives police departments in the county the ability to identify perpetrators of serious crimes by matching fingerprints from crime scenes to prints in the national database.
Not too far in the distance, probably next February, looms Seattle Public Schools levies for building and operations. The B-word, $1 billion, has been mentioned as the potential price.
Because the region has no system for ranking varied money requests, we use the spaghetti-on-the-wall method. Various jurisdictions throw different ideas at the voters in a sort of free-for-all manner and hope that several will stick.
Voters should pay close attention because the result can be ballot overload.