Homeless man lying on the bench. File photo

Homeless man lying on the bench. File photo

Cities opting out of county homelessness tax took $17 million with them

It leaves the county with roughly $50 million a year to bond against.

Passage of a new tax designed to raise money for homelessness was approved at the county level last week, blocking more cities from passing their own versions.

The Metropolitan King County Council voted on Oct. 13 to enact a 0.1% sales tax countywide. But the county didn’t act before a Sept. 30 deadline, meaning that during the two-week gap, several cities across the county voted to implement their own tax.

These cities include North Bend and Snoqualmie, along with Bellevue, Issaquah, Kent, Renton and Covington. The sales tax revenue from these cities will not go to the county unless approved by the cities first.

Despite this, county council members said at the Oct. 13 meeting that they were excited for the opportunity to pool resources. And cities that voted to enact their own tax — keeping the money controlled at the city level — can contribute funding to county efforts if they choose.

King County is planning on using the money to fund permanent supportive housing for more than 2,000 chronically homeless people. This includes not only housing, but wrap-around services for issues such as mental and behavioral health.

The county could choose to bond against part of the money raised, giving it up to $400 million immediately. But the cities that opted to collect their own taxes took a combined $17.3 million with them.

According to a report by PubliCola, had all the cities let the county collect the tax, it would bring in just under $68 million in 2021. The county could then bond against half that amount for $400 million. PubliCola said the county needs roughly $30 million a year in sales tax revenue to buy the bonds.

With the seven cities pulling out of the county plan, roughly $50 million a year will remain in King County coffers.

While some cities will collect significant chunks of change, like Bellevue’s nearly $9 million a year, or Kent and Renton with $2.8 million annually, others will not. North Bend only expects to collect $300,000 annually, and Snoqualmie expects to collect even less at $250,000.

This means that the two largest cities in the Snoqualmie Valley could only bond for perhaps $3 million to $4 million. And while this isn’t nothing, with property values high across Puget Sound, it’s unclear how effective it could be.

“It would be very difficult to have a significant impact,” said Sharon Lee, director of the Low Income Housing Institute. “I think in this case scale does matter.”

The Snoqualmie City Council approved their tax on Oct. 5, with only one council member voting against it. Council member Peggy Shepard questioned whether the city could handle much-needed affordable housing projects on its own.

The North Bend City Council approved their tax on Oct. 12 in a 5-2 vote, with the two opposing members saying they wouldn’t vote to increase taxes, said city spokesperson Danna McCall.

The county can begin collecting the tax beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo
King County libraries will reopen in some cities for in-person services

Fall City, Kent libraries among six selected for partial reopening.

Centennial Well is tightly connected to the Snoqualmie River. North Bend is required to find two mitigation sources which can be tapped to replenish water in the river on days with low flows. Ashley Hiruko/staff photo
North Bend, Sallal could restart water negotiations

Representatives from both utilities have said they’re talking again.

A South King Fire & Rescue firefighter places a used test swab into a secure COVID test vial on Nov. 18, 2020, at a Federal Way testing site. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Masks are still king in combating new COVID strains

A top UW doctor talks new strains, masks and when normal could return.

Fall City Fire Chief Chris Connor is retiring on Feb. 26, 2021 after 40 years with the department. Contributed photo
Fall City Fire Chief retires after four decades

Chief Chris Connor started with the department in February 1981.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Democrats look to allow noncitizens to serve on school boards

A Senate bill takes aim at a state law requiring anyone seeking elected office to be a citizen.

A road closure due to flooding on SE Park Street, Snoqualmie, during the 2016 flood. File photo
Minor flooding possible along Snoqualmie, Tolt rivers

Both the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers reached minor flooding phases on Monday… Continue reading

Torguson Skatepark. Courtesy of North Bend
Torguson Skatepark now open

The North Bend park has been in the works for years.

A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
State health leader: We have a plan, we don’t have the supply

Two months after the COVID vaccine landed in Washington, many still struggle to secure their shots.

Most Read