Election 2013: County parks levy proposed for August ballot

This summer, you might be asked to vote for a new King County Parks levy, if the County Council agrees with a recommendation from the County Executive. Here are details on the levy that the county says would cost you $64/year if you have a home worth $340,000:

Acting upon recommendations from a citizen task force, King County Executive Dow Constantine today sent the King County Council a proposed a six-year, $360 million Parks Levy for the August primary that would enable voters to replace two parks levies that will expire at the end of this year.

“This measure is essential to taking care of the extraordinary network of parks and trails our parents and grandparents have left us, and keeping them clean, safe and open,” said Executive Constantine.

“Preserving our last, best places has been a priority for this region for several decades,” he added. “This measure would help us protect areas nearly the size of Discovery Park every year for the next six years.”

If approved by voters, the measure would fund maintenance and operation of King County’s 200 parks, 175 miles of regional trails, and 26,000 acres of open space. It would also:

· Acquire or protect about 450 acres of critical open space per year – or 2,700 acres over the six-year levy period – for protection of forests, habitat and water quality for fish and wildlife, and improvement of opportunities for public recreation.

· Fund planning and design work with nine South County and Eastside cities for two major, long-term trail corridors – the Eastside Rail Corridor and the Lake to Sound Trail in South King County– which will ultimately add more than 20 new miles of public trails.

· Repair or replace 14 historic bridges and trestles in the trails system to avoid safety hazards or closure that could disrupt more than 40 miles of trails.

· Complete missing links in the regional trails system and connections to transit and civic hubs.

· Develop trailheads and parking lots to improve public access to up to 8,400 acres of existing parks and 140 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, including such locations as Cougar Mountain and Pinnacle Peak.

Each of the 39 cities in King County would benefit from a combined $4.2 million annually to fund park and trail improvements in local communities. Another $4.2 million a year would help fund animal care and conservation, and education and environmental programs at the regional Woodland Park Zoo for school children from all parts of King County.

The proposal transmitted today would enable voters to replace two expiring King County Parks levies with one that would generate about $60 million a year from 2014 through 2019, through a property tax levy lid lift of 18.91 cents per $1,000 of assessed value – an estimated $64 per year for the owner of a home valued at $340,000. About 80 percent of the levy would continue the levels of service provided by the current levies.

The Executive’s proposal shares the vision of recommendations from the 21 business and civic leaders who served on the King County Parks Levy Task Force. The panel recommended a levy rate that was 1/10th of a cent per thousand higher.

“The Parks Division has done an excellent job navigating these difficult economic times, and it was clear to Task Force members that now is the time to make repairs and improvements that have been delayed,” said Louise Miller, Task Force Co-Chair and former County Councilmember.

The Executive and Task Force shared strong agreement on the goals of the levy proposal:

· Taking care of King County’s existing system of parks and trails;

· Stewarding regional open space and natural lands, connecting habitat important for fish and wildlife, and providing recreation opportunities;

· Improving regional trails and mobility, ensuring essential connections are completed and existing trails are maintained; and

· Making parks and recreation opportunities more accessible for all King County residents to enjoy.

“Both agreed that now is the time to protect and preserve the assets in which our residents have invested for more than seven decades, while also preparing to meet the future needs of our region,” said Christie True, director of King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

Since 2002, King County Parks has focused on providing regional parks and trails, natural areas and local rural parks. It developed a financial model through voter-approved levies, by generating business revenue through entrepreneurial and enterprise activities, and by developing community and corporate partnerships to enhance parks amenities and reduce the burden for taxpayers.

In 2007, King County voters approved two parks-related levies: One to support operations and maintenance, and one to support open space protection and regional trail development for the County and its 39 cities, as well as operations, programs and capital improvements at the zoo.

King County Parks celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and the Executive said the ballot measure would invest in the future of the system.

The King County Council will decide whether to place the replacement measure on the ballot, and when.

17 Replies to "Election 2013: County parks levy proposed for August ballot"

  • skeeter February 21, 2013 (3:27 pm)

    King County may have 200 parks but they aren’t close to Seattle. It seems unfair that Seattle residents should be asked to pay for parks so far away. Shouldn’t this levy be only for people living in unincorporated areas? Seattle residents pay for Seattle parks. Renton residents pay for Renton parks. Shouldn’t unincorporated King County residents pay for unincorporated King County parks?

    • WSB February 21, 2013 (3:42 pm)

      I think the argument is, unincorporated area residents are not the only ones who use them; nor are Seattle residents the only ones who use Seattle parks (note the buses from the Eastside who come to Constellation Park for spring low-tide field trips, the people at Alki and Lincoln Park, and in the unincorporated realm, Steve Cox Memorial Park (one of several White Center parks that are close to Seattle) is considered regional and is used by sports teams from within the city limits as well as elsewhere). – TR

  • Vraxvalhalla February 21, 2013 (3:53 pm)

    No use disagreeing here, because its just going to be passed by voters (including non property owners) anyway. I do get tired of “more more more” attitude while me and my coworkers are facing potential furloughs due to the sequestration crisis in DC. That means lower paychecks and maybe no more mortgage payments. The amount of extra tax isn’t the point. It’s the “extra”, period.

  • westseattlecodger February 21, 2013 (4:18 pm)

    I have to say that I am a huge believer in and user of King Co parks. However, the timing on this is abysmal. The state legislature wants more gas taxes, Metro wants more car tab fees, the city just passed a huge school levy. How about taking a year off and giving the citizens a break? With the cost of gas rising plus taxes and tolls to boot the county can have a great park system that no one can reach, especially out past the I-405 ring.

  • skeeter February 21, 2013 (5:08 pm)

    I’m sure many Seattle residents use King County parks. Just like many King County residents use Seattle parks. No issue there.

    It just seems unfair that Seattle residents pay for Seattle parks AND King County parks while unincorporated King County residents ONLY have to pay for King County parks.

    The parks should be paid like the libraries. Seattle pays for Seattle and unincorporated King County pays for unincorporated King County.

  • G February 21, 2013 (5:39 pm)

    This is real money effecting the lives of real people and their ability to live in Seattle, Mr. Constantine. A lot us just got our semi-annual property tax bill, and I haven’t dared to open mine yet with my other bills on the table.

  • toodles February 21, 2013 (5:57 pm)

    Vote yes! vote yes!

  • Fire Ball February 21, 2013 (6:45 pm)

    You Seattle folks think it’s unfair to pay for King County Parks…Us King County folks think it’s unfair we pay for your stupid Link Light Rail. Something We will never use.

  • Pete February 21, 2013 (6:55 pm)

    Some of the acquisitions made in the prior levy(s) helped to purchase property for parks in Seattle I believe this is just a renewal not a brand new levy.

  • Rachel February 21, 2013 (7:28 pm)

    It is a renewal of the previous levy, plus an increase. I wish they would find a more unilateral tax to pay for public parks, rather than attaching to the backs of homeowners only…car registration perhaps? Most people have cars…just seems so unfair to tax homeowners for schools and parks when those things are used by renters and homeowners alike.

  • Jeff February 21, 2013 (7:42 pm)

    Renters pay property tax Rachel. If they don’t, they have criminally stupid landlords for not building it into the rent.

  • West Seattle since 1979 February 22, 2013 (6:18 am)

    Jeff, thanks for writing that. So tired of the fallacy that renters are somehow getting a free ride.

  • Rachel February 22, 2013 (9:31 am)

    Well, the increase in tax for parks alone is $64 per year for a $340,000 home. Add also other levies for schools etc and the increase is well over $100 per year. Do renters see an increase in purportion to that amount every year, I didn’t when I was renting. But perhaps my landlord was criminally stupid.

  • West Seattle since 1979 February 22, 2013 (9:59 am)

    OK, let’s try to get a law passed where renters pay property taxes directly. Then could those of us who rent quit feeling guilty???

  • West Seattle since 1979 February 22, 2013 (10:03 am)

    What, should we only get half a vote then? Or not be allowed to vote at all?

    Sorry, but I just get so tired of the comments about renters and feeling like a second class citizen because I choose to rent instead of own.

  • wetone February 22, 2013 (10:37 am)

    People haven’t seen anything yet. Over the next few years were going to see increased property tax, usage fees,tolls, sales tax and more. This city is out of control with it’s spending. With the cost of the tunnel, waterfront remake, 520 build, 14th ave bridge, heck this city can’t even build a new transfer station (dump) and get it right. Every one of the projects above when done will be 50-100% over the original budget. They think they have a blank check and we end up paying for it. This city and state will never get my vote for things like this until they get more responsible with their spending habits.
    % wise these type of taxes do hit home owners more than renters.

  • boy February 22, 2013 (1:56 pm)

    King co excecutive should first come out an say that the parks we have are being well mantained and all exsitng parks are open with out any staff problems. Then tell the voters that you are not building parks that later there won’t be enough money to take care of an then have to come back to the voters crying poor mouth that parks have no money to keep them up. Only after that and knowing they lie to the voters all the time I will vote no.

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