Dunn concerned levy hike could impact taxing districts | Best Starts for Kids

In July, the King County Council voted 8-1 in favor of placing King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Best Starts for Kids initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot

In July, the King County Council voted 8-1 in favor of placing King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Best Starts for Kids initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Councilman Reagan Dunn, who represents District 9 including Newcastle, Covington, Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Enumclaw and parts of Renton and Kent, voted against putting the measure on the ballot.

The measure will appear as Proposition No. 1 on the general election ballots, which were mailed Tuesday, Oct. 13. It would be a levy rate increase of 14 cents, which equates to about $56 in additional property taxes per year for the average King County homeowner.

Dunn said he voted against putting the six-year levy on the ballot because he is concerned for junior taxing districts.

Local taxing districts have a hierarchical structure. The top half includes counties, cities and road districts. These are known as senior districts. The junior districts include fire, water, parks and recreation, cemetery, hospital, flood control, airport and others.

For all local taxing districts including both junior and senior ranks the legislature has put a cap of $5.90 per $1,000 of assessed valuation that can be collected. By themselves, counties can levy up to $1.80 of that $5.90 and cities receive up to $3.60 or less depending on if library or fire protection services are provided by a separate district. In unincorporated areas, because the city levy wouldn’t exist, a county road levy of up to $2.25 is in place. That leaves the remaining $1.85 $0.50 for the group of junior taxing districts.

If the maximum rate of $5.90 were reached in any particular area, the county would be the last entity to be reduced or prorated.

Rachelle Celebrezze, senior legislative analyst for King County Council, made a series of projections of how the initiative would affect junior taxing districts and reported it to the council at the July meeting.

In her report, Celebrezze stated, “…if the Best Starts for Kids levy is approved by the voters, two park districts Si View and Fall City would remain prorated for a portion of the Best Starts for Kids levy collection period.”

She projected that those two park districts would have a total revenue loss of $514,000 and $300,000, respectively, for the first four years of the new levy (2016-19).

Celebrezze did another projection. This time for a scenario in which the economy slows slightly.

Her report stated, “if the Best Starts for Kids levy were added to the countywide property tax levy, the following junior taxing districts are projected to experience some amount of prorationing over the life of the Best Starts for Kids levy in a stagnation scenario.”

Taxing districts that are located in District 9 are in bold.

Vashon Parks and Recreation District, Hospital District No. 1, Hospital District No. 4, Fall City Metropolitan park District, Si View Metropolitan Park District, Fire District No. 20, Fire District No. 25, Fire District No. 27, Fire District No. 43, and Fire District No. 44.

Celebrezze’s report also states if the Best Starts for Kids levy is taken out of the equation (if it doesn’t get voter approval), then four junior taxing districts would be still be prorated in an economic stagnation scenario. Those districts are Hospital District No. 1, Hospital District No. 4, Fall City Metropolitan Park District, and Si View Metropolitan Park District.

The levy, which would raise about $65 million per year, is an investment in prevention and early intervention for children, youth, families and communities, according to Constantine’s website.

The majority of the revenue, 50 percent, would go toward early childhood development programs for children up to age 5. About 35 percent would go toward programs that assist kids and adults ages 6 through 24, 10 percent would go to community programs aimed at improving health, social and economic outcomes, and five percent would be used for “evaluation, data collection and program improvement,” according to a release from Constantine.

Dunn said he’s not opposed to what the levy funds, but he doesn’t want other districts to lose revenue as a result of it.

“I’m not saying there’s not a need out there for human services. There is,” he said.

“I would hate to see fire and hospital districts be forced to close their doors… because we decided to do this,” Dunn added.

Dwight Dively, budget director for King County, said the levy is not likely to affect fire districts unless a recession scenario occurs.

Dively said the chances of the economy enduring another recession is unlikely in the next couple years. However, he added, that possibility does rise over the duration of the levy, which is six years.