Proposed $200 million property tax levy clears hurdle

April 5, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 8 a.m. April 5, 2012

The proposed $200 million property tax levy to raise funds for a juvenile detention center cleared a King County Council committee Tuesday — a key step to sending the measure to voters.

Budget and Fiscal Management Committee gave a “do-pass” recommendation to a measure to fund a replacement for the aging Youth Services Center, a juvenile detention facility in Seattle. The legislation heads to the full council for final consideration. The council must act by the end of April to place a measure on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.

Led by Councilman Bob Ferguson, council members proposed the nine-year levy. If the levy is placed on the ballot and passed, homeowners should pay about 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $20 per year for a home assessed at $350,000.

Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, the Issaquah representative on the board, joined Ferguson and councilmen Larry Gossett and Joe McDermott to introduce the legislation.

“The current Youth Service Center has been compared to Harborview’s ER on a Saturday night — loud and chaotic, not a place hospitable to justice,” McDermott said in a statement. “King County’s families in crisis deserve a facility that can support them on their path toward a healthy family life.”

The proposal calls for replacing decaying buildings constructed in the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s. Officials deemed the electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems as beyond repair. Replacement costs for the systems could reach more than $20 million.

The facility is not designed to handle a hectic caseload. Officials said courtrooms and waiting areas lack enough space for juvenile offenders, family members, attorneys and others. Judges and commissioners at the juvenile court on site handle 3,700 cases per year at the facility.

The detention facility houses about 65 children and teenagers.

“We all want a better future for our children, and King County has a responsibility to provide a safe, healthy and productive environment for youth in our custody and care,” Lambert said in a statement.

County Executive Dow Constantine, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and King County Superior Court judges also support the proposed levy.

“A new Children and Family Justice Center is important for our communities and King County,” King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Richard McDermott said in a statement. “The result will be improved access to critical services for the families in our juvenile justice system.”

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