King County voters to decide $200 million property tax hike

May 1, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

King County voters could decide to increase the property tax rate to construct a juvenile detention facility, county leaders decided April 16.

In a unanimous decision, King County Council members placed a $200 million property tax levy on the Aug. 7 ballot to fund a replacement for the aging Youth Services Center, a juvenile detention facility in Seattle. The facility is a collection of decaying buildings. Officials said the electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling infrastructure is beyond repair.

If the nine-year 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.

Judges and commissioners at the juvenile court on site handle 3,700 cases per year at the detention facility. The complex houses about 65 children and teenagers from throughout the county.

Councilman Reagan Dunn, a local representative, said the proposal reflects the lean economic reality.

“I think that it is proportionally and appropriately sized given the need,” he said before the council decision. “We all know the facility is desperately in need of repair.”

(Dunn represents rural areas south of Issaquah and Newcastle on the council.)

In 2010, voters rejected a broader sales tax package meant to raise dollars for criminal justice services and replace the Youth Services Center.

“A levy is a much better way to fund the infrastructure that King County needs to build,” Dunn said before the April 16 decision.

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

In the existing facility, county officials spent millions addressing ongoing mold and moisture lingering from a 2006 flood. Officials suspended court operations at the facility in 2010 after a water main broke outside the building.

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

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