County council members call for tax transfer to fund law enforcement

Four members of the King County Council have called for a voter-approved shuffle of funds from flood, roads, ferry and other tax levies to pay for criminal justice funding.

Council members Reagan Dunn, Kathy Lambert, Pete von Reichbauer and Jane Hague offered the alternative plan at the special meeting in May, as a way to avoid a sales tax increase.

A proposal to put the ballot on the August primary was voted down at a Tuesday, May 25, special council meeting. But a spokesman for Lambert's office said the proposal may still be considered for the general election in King County.

“Our budget needs to be sustainable, and we need to fix the structural gap instead of just applying another Band-aid,” said Lambert. “This plan represents a starting point for maintaining our criminal justice system. We look forward to working with our colleagues over the next 60 days, as well as working with our cities and public safety leaders to create a plan that funds our priorities while respecting taxpayers.”

The transfer proposal would allow voters to reprioritize some $43 million in property taxes for existing county services and redirect them to the criminal justice services. The plan would see a net property tax adjustment of 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation dedicated to criminal justice that would sunset in four years. To offset this amount, the plan changes the following taxes:

• Flood Protection Levy – Reduce property tax levy by $4.5 million of the total $35 million collected annually.

• Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) – Reduce property tax levy $3 million out of the total $15.5 million collected annually.

• Conservation Futures – Reduce property tax levy $1.5 million of the total $16.7 million collect annually.

• Parks Expansion – Eliminate collection of the final 2 years of the $18.5 million of the parks expansion levy.

• Transit / Ferry District Tax – Reduce property tax levy $10 million of the total $600 million annual transit budget.

• Roads Transfer – Transfer $6 million from the unincorporated levy for criminal justice purposes.

If approved, the plan would go to voters on the November ballot.

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