Voters to decide King County veterans-and-human-services levy
August 9, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Measure funds Issaquah programs for teenagers, parents
King County voters decide the future of a county veterans-and-human-services levy soon, and as Election Day nears, recipients of levy dollars demonstrated how the measure impacts Issaquah and other communities.
The electorate approved the initial veterans-and-human-services levy — 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — to fund programs for veterans and social service efforts in 2005. The measure, Proposition 1, is up for renewal on the Aug. 16 ballot.
If passed, the levy renewal is projected to generate $100 million through 2017. The funding is split 50-50 among programs for veterans and the neediest residents in King County.
Proposition 1 matches the existing levy and does not include additional taxes. The owner of a home assessed at $340,000 is expected to pay $17 in 2012 if the levy is renewed. (The existing levy is due to expire Dec. 31.)
Proposition 1 receives broad support from human services organizations and advocates for veterans. The measure received unanimous support on the often-contentious council. The county Voters’ Guide does not include any statements against Proposition 1.
Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, the Issaquah representative on the council, did not support the original levy, but she is open to the renewal because, she said, the measure funds important programs.
“There were a lot of needs before. There are a lot of needs now that aren’t being totally met,” she said. “With the veterans coming back, I think it’s really important that we show them that we honor their service to us and to our country, by having the services they need prepared for them when they get here.”
What to expect on the November ballot
Cynthia Lefever joined the county Veterans Citizen Levy Oversight Board in 2009 as she helped her son, U.S. Army Spc. Rory Dunn, a 2000 Liberty High School graduate, recover from catastrophic injuries caused by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
“I saw it as a way to advocate for veterans that didn’t have a mom or a spouse or a family member to look out for them after they were retired from the military or even, actually, while they were still on active duty,” she said.
Levy funds Issaquah programs
Countywide last year, organizations supported by the levy served 4,600 veterans, military personnel and family members, plus 8,600 homeless people or people at risk of becoming homeless, a report from the Veterans Citizen Levy Oversight Board shows.
Organizations in Issaquah and the surrounding area use levy funds to house homeless parents, build affordable housing, offer child care, and assist unemployed and homeless teenagers.
“I think it has brought the community together, both on the veterans side and on the human services side, so that people are really much more aware of being collaborative and advocating for the need for the support,” Friends of Youth CEO Terry Pottmeyer said. “People understand how important the entire safety net is for the health of the community.”
Friends of Youth operates a counseling center along Front Street North in downtown Issaquah.
YWCA of Seattle-King-Snohomish received $395,000 from the levy in recent years for the Passage Point program and another $214,607 in capital funds for YWCA Family Village at Issaquah, a workforce-housing complex in the Issaquah Highlands. The funds contributed to construction of the 146-unit complex.
Passage Point is a housing facility in rural King County near the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill for parents transitioning from incarceration.
“We clearly don’t have enough resources to cover the expenses of services that we feel are essential, and there are times when government contracts with private nonprofits, like the YWCA, to carry out services, because they think we can do an excellent job at it,” YWCA Community Engagement Director Liz Mills said.
If passed, renewal lasts until 2017
Passage Point is a noteworthy example of the partnership between government and nonprofit organizations.
“It’s really costly to keep putting people back in jail. The idea, the goal behind things like Passage Point is, it saves not only the county, but the state, money,” Mills added. “It not only reduces the financial cost, but the human costs of recidivism.”
Friends of Youth relies on levy funds for Healthy Start, a program for expectant young mothers, and teenage and young adult parents.
The nonprofit organization also receives about $70,000 for employment services for homeless teenagers and young adults. The budget for the program totals $90,000.
“The current economic downturn has hit that population probably the hardest as a demographic in terms of being able to find work,” Pottmeyer said.
Other organizations receiving support from the levy and serving Issaquah residents include Child Care Resources, HealthPoint medical and dental clinics, and Hopelink, a regional human services nonprofit organization.
Steve Gierke, municipal human services coordinator for Issaquah, said the levy offers important support to human services providers. Some organizations, such as Friends of Youth, Hopelink and YWCA, also receive support from the city.
If the levy renewal passes Aug. 16, administrators intend to release a draft plan outlining service through 2017 soon after Election Day.
“The food bank that you may end up needing to go to, or the drug and alcohol rehab that your cousin, brother, sister, whoever may need to go to will be there because somebody needs it,” Lambert said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.