King County could ask voters to renew fund for veterans services

January 25, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

King County voters could be asked in November to fund programs to help local veterans and military personnel.

Councilmen Reagan Dunn, Bob Ferguson and Pete Von Reichbauer last week proposed a renewal of the county veterans and human services levy. The legislation is the initial step to maintain funding for veterans services after the current levy expires at the end of the year.

Ferguson is the prime sponsor of the renewal and the initial measure. The electorate adopted the veterans and human services levy by a decisive margin in 2005.

“The veterans and humans services levy honors our veterans and helps thousands of King County residents,” he said in a statement. “During this recession, the critical services provided by the levy are needed more than ever.”

The legislation proposed Jan. 3 calls for the levy to be renewed for another six years at the existing rate of 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The cost amounts to about $20 on a $400,000 home.

Republicans Dunn and Von Reichbauer joined Democrat Ferguson to back — and lend bipartisan support to — the measure.

(Though voters made the council nonpartisan in 2008, members continue to caucus along partisan lines on many issues.)

“The veterans and human services levy has helped many people, including many veterans, over the last five years,” Dunn said in the statement. “While the county is being forced to eliminate human services from its general fund budget, we must maintain this modest funding source. It is the least we can do to honor the sacrifice of our returning heroes.”

The councilman represents rural King County near Issaquah, plus Newcastle and parts of Bellevue and Renton.

The initial levy attracted percent from 58 percent of voters. In order for the levy to continue, the council must agree to place the measure on the November ballot in 2011 and a majority of the electorate must support the proposal.

The measure generates about $13 million per year — half of the money is dedicated for veterans programs and the other half is used for general human services programs. The legislation to renew the levy calls for the same formula.

The levy has been used to add shelter beds available for homeless veterans, to increase treatment services for post-traumatic stress disorder and to support other programs.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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