I hear the complaint over and over. Residents across the county are getting taxed out of their homes. Most appreciate ballot measures where decisions are made by voters. But with the taxing limits of Initiative 601 still holding government bodies to 1 percent increases, a new method of taxing has emerged – taxing districts.
At a recent meeting of city mayors, several taxing districts were highlighted. Thanks to presentation materials from attendees and the King County Web site, we are able to shed more light on several of these taxing measures.
Let’s review what was recently passed. In August, voters across the county approved two levy propositions for parks, open space and the Woodland Park Zoo. The total is 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Granted, we may go to the zoo, but the first proposition was to support county parks.
Remember, we have very few county parks in the area anymore. The biggest county park was turned over to a local parks district at the county’s insistence several years ago. We are currently taxed separately for Si View.
In November, we will be asked to support a six-year Medic One levy at a rate of 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, plus an increase in years two through six, relative to the consumer price index.
Also in November, a large part of the county will be asked to support a Regional Transportation Improvement District tax. Luckily, we here in the Valley escaped the boundaries for this district and will also escape the taxing.
The above are voter-approved taxes, but the real dirt is in the details of what the county will be taxing us for without voter approval.
First is the King County Flood Control District, which has the authority to tax up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value without voter approval. The county currently plan to tackle its projects list based on 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
While I have supported the formation of the Flood Control District and think it needs to be funded, the only control comes from the advisory committee to which both Snoqualmie and North Bend will contribute members. I have heard that some jurisdictions want to back out of the plan or be taxed at lower rates. We all are sharing, and sometimes suffering, with King County’s growth, so we should share the burden equally for the impact of growth, such as increased flooding.
Another upcoming taxation likely imposed by the County Council has to do with passenger-only ferry service. The county, citing problems with passenger ferry service funding, has created a King County Ferry District and, guess what? We will be paying this tax at whatever level the County Council decides; up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Nope, we don’t get to vote on this one.
The county is also considering a mental health/chemical dependency sales tax, which the state Legislature has authorized at the rate of one-tenth of 1 percent applied as a sales tax. The money has to be used for mental health and chemical dependency services. No voter approval of the tax, at the county level, is required.
Finally, the county is moving forward with its program for menu labeling and trans fat limitations in chain restaurants. No tax has been proposed at this point, but at some point I would assume the head of the King County Board of Health is going to ask for more money to police those of us who may be searching out that elusive trans fat french fry.
The point is this: we are now on the path of getting taxed without the ability to vote on the new taxes. The potential for taxation without a say could be up to $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value.
We need to send a clear message to county officials that they are quickly making King County unaffordable for those of us who like to call it home. Note the above taxes do not include any local measures that may hit the ballots in the coming months, such as community centers and schools.