What will you get for $930 million? Read the proposed transportation levy’s fine print

The heart of the decision over this fall’s transportation levy: What will you get for your money? Two weeks after Mayor Murray and SDOT director Scott Kubly went public with the revised proposed $930 million “Move Seattle” transportation levy (WSB coverage here), it’s officially appearing on the City Council’s Introduction and Referral Calendar – which means that you can read the “fine print.” That includes the proposed “ballot title,” what you’ll see before you vote in November, assuming the language isn’t changed:


The City of Seattle’s Proposition 1 concerns replacing funding for citywide transportation maintenance and improvements.

If approved, this proposition would replace an expiring levy and fund bridge seismic upgrades, transit corridor and light rail station access projects, pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, upgraded and synchronized traffic signals, street maintenance and improvements, freight mobility projects, and neighborhood street fund projects.

It authorizes regular property taxes above RCW 84.55 limits, allowing collection of up to $95,000,000 in 2016 and up to $930,000,000 over nine years. The 2016 total regular tax limit would be $3.60/$1,000 assessed value, including approximately $0.62 additional taxes.

Should this levy be approved?
Levy, Yes
Levy, No

You can read the legislation in its entirety here – keep in mind the City Council now will start its review, with public-comment opportunities along the way – including a 5:30 pm public hearing at City Hall on June 2nd – before a final version is sent to the county in August. (This link also includes info on how to comment on it right now. And a new stack of “public outreach” links has just been sent around by SDOT – you can find them here; the links on that page include the map we’ve embedded atop this story.)

28 Replies to "What will you get for $930 million? Read the proposed transportation levy's fine print"

  • kj May 22, 2015 (11:41 am)

    Am I reading this wrong? It doesn’t look like West Seattle is getting much in the way of sorely needed improvements.

  • Rick May 22, 2015 (12:12 pm)

    Don’t leave out the “rapid response tree pruning”.

  • Mickymse May 22, 2015 (12:47 pm)

    No, you’re not reading it wrong, kj…

  • quiz May 22, 2015 (12:59 pm)

    @kj, couldn’t agree more. When I think about the high percentage of the revenue that will be paid by folks in West Seattle, I feel like were terribly under-represented in the way of benefits.

  • timeslid May 22, 2015 (1:18 pm)

    From what I can see, this plan does not address the ingress or egress from West Seattle which is the biggest traffic issue we face by far. Yes we need the improvements on the list, but without a way in or out, we are still sitting in line waiting to cross the bridge.

    • WSB May 22, 2015 (1:39 pm)

      Timeslid – that’s been a frequent critique so far, just in what we’ve heard. The one component that you could say relates in some degree to it is the Lander Street Overpass – surface traffic using the low bridge can get bollixed by train traffic in SODO, and that addresses it.

  • Delridge Denizen May 22, 2015 (3:35 pm)

    In answer to the headline: the bill.

  • The Fiscal Democrat May 22, 2015 (4:31 pm)

    I know i don’t have time but i know it can be done! someone could take property values right off of zillow X .25 (reduction) X (create formula based upon values of the house. levy rate) to determine how much $$$ West Seattle generates for the city. We should secede.

  • The King May 22, 2015 (5:11 pm)

    Hundreds of millions to create more congestion by reducing main drag lanes, roundabouts, rapid ride stops at stop light intersections, removing parking spots, I would just like to see roads repaired the right way. Remove bad road, install good road, repeat. And just give the rest of the money to Russell Wilson.

  • kj May 22, 2015 (5:53 pm)

    What about all the broken sidewalks between the West Seattle Junction and the Morgan Street Junction?

    Does the city not have to comply with ADA laws? I have a friend who has to go out in the street at places where his motorized can’t go on the broken sidewalk. Dangerous.

  • Neighbor May 22, 2015 (6:40 pm)

    I am all for public transportation and planning for increased density, but this Mayor is a failure. Perhaps the Seattle Process that has hindered any and all progress toward efficient transportation options is giving Seattle voters what they, as a whole, deserve. Nothing! It seems that most residents don’t understand that wanting better transportation options for all (even if you drive a car every day and never use public transportation you benefit from other drivers getting off the road) costs money, and increased density spreads that cost over more taxpayers thereby reducing the individual burden on homeowners, but you can’t be against all development and against taxes while wanting these improvements. Someone has to pay. Washington has to be among the words user fee states in the Union, so maybe we all deserve a toll across the WS bridge since homeowners don’t want to pay higher property taxes, renters in all new construction don’t contribute anything to taxes, and everyone complains no matter what.

  • Sunny.206 May 22, 2015 (8:01 pm)

    I’m voting against it…this mayor doesn’t need anymore money to spend on crippling the roads in any part of our city.

  • Jeff May 22, 2015 (11:16 pm)

    Grow a spine!

    Demand accountability!

    VOTE NO!

  • Bleu Sky Cheese May 23, 2015 (7:44 am)

    @kj – I agree that in many area sidewalks are poorly maintained, however the repair of sidewalks is the responsibility of the property own of the adjacent sidewalk (per Seattle Municipal Code title 15.72 & SDOT CAM 2208). Instead of transferring sidewalk maintenance to the city, the city should enforce its policies and hold people accountable.

  • Mark May 23, 2015 (8:04 am)

    umm…renters do pay property taxes, indirectly. Our landlords pay those taxes just like homeowners and that cost as passed down to the renters.

    The renters have a stake in West Seattle just like the home owners.

  • AlkiBeach May 23, 2015 (1:44 pm)

    Everyone please shut the F _ _ _ up about having to paying for something! Your all sounding like the person you said weren’t going to become! Those are the same ‘things’/’people’ you use to make fun at when you were younger – No Matter Your Age! Should you, I, or those that don’t ‘give a crap’ get what they want on their wish list…??? HELL NO! Life is full of choices; sometimes the path sends you through a scary forest where the apple trees become alive…maybe even a flying monkey or two…hundred. Keep this in mind. You’re already in the Emerald City. If you don’t like it, jump into your balloon, ‘click your heels three times’…and repeat after me…”I want to go home…I want to go home, I want to go home…” NIMBY’s – just go Home!!!
    Should the person living on a rural back-road of Louisiana have their taxes raised because some suburban municipality in New Orleans wants the states’ money to help pay for an addition stop sign, that comes with LED lighting, a solar panel and wireless capabilities so the second that LED light burns out in twenty years they can be ‘right on it’ to change it out? Should I eat out tonight or ‘stay in’? I think you can get what I’m trying to say. Just deal with it. Choice, Choices, Choices…none of us are ‘all that’; even when we know right from wrong we rationalize to ourselves that we don’t know if this is the best choice or not. The reality is, some of us knowingly make the wrong decision everyday but we still do it. I should save my money tonight and not go out, but…

  • Wsrez May 23, 2015 (1:59 pm)

    In NY there is decent infrastructure because the taxpayers accept it is their responsibility to help front the cost of said requirements to keep the city moving. There you pay $14/ each way to cross a bridge to the city just like the West Seattle bridge. We will, in Seattle still be talking about our transportation issues in 15 years, while we all sit on the West Seattle bridge on a bus or in our cars, waiting in traffic to take us to our jobs, to pay for our expensive homes, in a city where there is no state income tax wondering, “gosh, I wonder why the government can’t fix this problem.” Schools get better when our money supports them, it’s the way it works. It’s not all the governments responsibility. Does any wonder how we pay the tree cutters? Portland is LIGHTYEARS ahead of us when it comes to infrastructure. I say bring in the income tax and call it good.

  • Chris Bast May 23, 2015 (7:02 pm)

    The Governor’s Carbon Pollution Accountability Act would have created $1.3 Billion in revenue annually – a significant portion of which would have gone to transportation. But, for some reason, making polluters pay their fair share hasn’t been a priority for the state legislature.

  • Mo money, Mo $ May 23, 2015 (7:04 pm)

    @ Alkibeach, You please shut the F___ up, some people want “Accountability” when these taxes come up. They give you a huge number, then a slide show with pretty pictures, then say, give us a few hundred dollars more a year for one particular “project”. Times that by ALL the “projects” they have already passed or yet to pass. Maybe New money folks have that luxury, but us regular folk are on a budget. Maybe the city should try the concept of a ” budget”.

  • Kevin May 23, 2015 (9:47 pm)

    @Mark – you are incorrect. Please educate yourself on MFTE then try your post again.

  • miws May 24, 2015 (7:07 am)

    Kevin, here is a PDF of the most recent (December 2014) list of MTFE rental properties:



    If I counted correctly, there are 92 properties listed. My guess is there are many more non-MTFE properties in Seattle, where the owners pay property taxes, which would be calculated into rents.



  • ChefJoe May 24, 2015 (9:11 am)

    Kevin – you are incorrect. Only a few MFTE areas are in West Seattle and there are requirements to get the MFTE for a project as well as a limitation on how long that exemption lasts. It’s not just “all multifamily housing doesn’t pay property tax”.


  • flynlo May 24, 2015 (10:41 am)

    From the link miws provided above, I counted 11 MFTE buildings in West Seattle. Of those 11 buildings I was able to gather info from King Co. parcel viewer info on 8 of them (the others I believe are too new to have complete data available. Of those 8, the taxes paid per unit, (not the MFTE units) but all units in the building ranged from $68.25 to $533.64 per YEAR. Compare that to the typical single family yearly tax bill! There was $167,696,700 in appraised improvement value that is untaxed (for I believe 12 years) in the MFTE program in those 8 buildings and $27,938,900 in taxable value. A pretty good deal for the developers/owners in my view.

  • flynlo May 24, 2015 (11:04 am)

    More food for thought – those 8 buildings represent ~ 8.7% of the MFTE properties in Seattle.
    If those 8 are representative of all the properties in the program, there is nearly $ 2,000,000,000 in
    appraised improvement in the MFTE program that is untaxed! That’s probably a small % of all the taxable housing in King Co. but still…..

  • DarkHawke May 24, 2015 (1:14 pm)

    I have no idea from whence this passion for promoting biking as a viable commuting option came, but I wish it would go back. If the city “leaders” took half the effort and money they’re putting into an alternative few will ever use, and used it to instead FINALLY build out the monorail (which has been a sensible and cost-effective idea FOR DECADES), we might have a shot at a truly “rapid ride” through this city that won’t be stopped by roadway traffic conditions. Those last two SR99 blockades in less than a year would have still backed up traffic like they did, but monorail riders would have sailed past it all, grinning from ear to ear!

  • Kevin May 24, 2015 (1:16 pm)

    @ChefJoe: I wasn’t incorrect and that isn’t my quote. I simply pointed out that Mark’s statement was incorrect. But thanks for putting words in my mouth.

  • ChefJoe May 24, 2015 (9:08 pm)

    I guess you’re right Kevin, due to the small fraction of MFTE housing that exists, a fraction of renters aren’t paying property taxes, indirectly.

    One could also argue that due to the EITC and bankruptcy courts, some fraction of SF homeowners aren’t paying property taxes too. What was your point specifically meant to convey again ?

Sorry, comment time is over.