ELECTION 2023: County Council might decide Tuesday on whether to send $1.25 billion behavioral-health levy to voters (update: they will)

ORIGINAL MONDAY REPORT: Another special election will be ahead in April if the King County Council votes Tuesday – or shortly thereafter – to send a $1.25 billion behavioral-health levy to voters. The meeting preview says the measure would create a nine-year property tax levy to fund “four key goals,” listed as follows:

*Create five new regional crisis care centers: Distributed geographically across the county, the centers would provide walk-in access and the potential for short-term stays to help people stabilize, depending on needs, with one center specifically serving youth.

*Preserve and restore the dramatic loss of residential treatment beds: In 2018, 355 beds providing community-based residential care for people with mental health residential needs existed in King County. Today, only 244 of these beds are available.

*Grow the behavioral health workforce pipeline: The proposal would create career pathways through apprenticeship programming and access to higher education, credentialing, training, and wrap-around supports. It would also invest in equitable wages for the workforce at crisis care centers.

*Provide immediate services while centers are being constructed: The proposal would also use initial proceeds to quickly create mobile or site-based crisis behavioral health services that can operate until the first crisis care centers open. This bridge strategy would complement recent state and federally-funded-mobile crisis teams.

The need for these services has expanded greatly in recent years, according to sponsors. They elaborate in the full text of the proposal going before county councilmembers at 1 pm Tuesday, which you can read here (page 50). If passed as written, the levy would cost the owner of a median-priced King County home – $694,000 in 2021 valuations – $10 a month in 2024. You can comment to the council before or during the hybrid (online and in-person downtown) meeting; the agenda explains how.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Per a statement from the County Executive’s Office, the county council did indeed approve sending the levy to voters in April.

46 Replies to "ELECTION 2023: County Council might decide Tuesday on whether to send $1.25 billion behavioral-health levy to voters (update: they will)"

  • TJ January 30, 2023 (10:45 pm)

    Hey, what’s another $150 a year. The federal, state, county, and city governments have looked at taxpayers as a broken slot machine with money spilling out. Oh, throw in Sound Transit too. Revenue hasn’t been a problem here for government. Spending is though. How about the county try running itself like many households are having to right now and not look to spend more money

  • James January 31, 2023 (5:47 am)

    Absolutely we should have behavioral health services, but this is a tax levy that needs to be beared by corporations and the billionaires. Not to get all Bernie Sanders here but working and middle class families in the U.S. are being made to pay for everything like it’s an infinite resource of capital. I would tell our council that what they need to do is enact laws that require corporations and billionaires to pay the same tax rates as everyone else, if not more. This “eff you, I got mine” train needs to be decommissioned or it’s going to make a lot more people unsheltered in our society. Not everyone has a pension or an investment portfolio of $2 million to see them through retirement. Families on fixed incomes or budgets will not be able to afford additional property taxes, and then where are they supposed to go if they are forced to sell their home? 

    • Jay January 31, 2023 (1:45 pm)

      Right? This should be a capital gains or income tax, not a property tax. I can afford it, but I have a lot of empathy for all the folks on fixed income, paying rent, retired in their house, etc. We need to stop disproportionately taxing the people who can afford it the least.

  • Landlord January 31, 2023 (7:33 am)

    No problem….I’ll just increase my rent to cover the cost.

    • K January 31, 2023 (8:23 am)

      *Eyeroll* If this is all it takes to get you to raise your rent, you were going to raise it anyway.  Nice try, Landlord!  This $10 is well worth it.  We have been defunding mental health since the Kennedy administration, with disastrous results.  Happy to pay my part to make resources available to those who need it.

    • DC January 31, 2023 (8:24 am)

      Exactly right. Yet we constantly hear that renters opinions on housing/zoning don’t matter because we don’t pay property tax. Renters pay our landlords’ property tax! Stop excluding us from housing conversations.

  • Zoomy January 31, 2023 (8:05 am)

    I don’t trust the City Council to manage or spend this money. NO

    • WSB January 31, 2023 (10:03 am)

      The City Council has nothing to do with it. COUNTY Council.

  • Anne January 31, 2023 (8:08 am)

    Can’t wait to vote NO!

    • Jason January 31, 2023 (12:33 pm)

      Right! I vote no on all the levy’s. I don’t use libraries or have kids or go to the park so why am I funding schools, libraries and parks??? Viva la Libertarian!

      • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy January 31, 2023 (6:52 pm)

        Is it sad I didn’t realize you were joking for a minute because I’ve accepted people actually think this way? Yeah. It’s sad.

  • North admiral January 31, 2023 (8:22 am)

    Those beds will come in handy for people living on fixed incomes with their property taxes going up dramatically every year 

    • DC January 31, 2023 (10:13 am)

      This is why we need to increase density and housing options throughout the area. Being able to cash in on your hundreds of thousand dollar investment and afford a smaller, easier to maintain house in the same neighborhood would alleviate this issue.

      • North admiral January 31, 2023 (11:12 am)

        Good idea. What’s grandma doing in that house anyways. Let’s get her into a small cement box 

  • M January 31, 2023 (8:36 am)

    I don’t love the idea of increasing my property taxes even more, BUT, this is the first I’ve heard about actually trying to address the root cause of homelessness.  I’d much rather put more effort into this approach than just give endless funds to “affordable housing” efforts that do nothing to help the mental illnesses and drug addition that actually cause the majority of homelessness in the first place. 

    • Kyle January 31, 2023 (11:04 am)

      In other parts of the country, mentally ill people can afford to live in housing, here they can’t because we don’t have enough housing.

      • M January 31, 2023 (1:21 pm)

        You seem to imply that everyone has an inherent right to live wherever they want to, without regard to their means.  I’d love to live in Malibu, but I can’t afford it, so I don’t.  Where has common sense gone? Indeed, there ARE other parts of the country that are more affordable to live.  You’re right.  And there are parts of the country that are expensive to live.  We all need to adjust to what we can afford, and have safety nets for those who genuinely need them. 

        • Scarlett January 31, 2023 (5:31 pm)

          Would you apply that same reasoning to those live in homes that have racked up huge price appreciation over the years, but now can’t afford property taxes?  You know, go live where you can afford to live?  

          • 1994 January 31, 2023 (9:11 pm)

            I think it is called managing your budget so you can afford to live here…. If your expenses increase in one area you decrease your expenditures in another area. People manage their budgets all the time! While we may not be pleased with having to cut back in some areas, people do it to maintain their housing and other needs. The wants are what get decreased or eliminated.

          • Spooled January 31, 2023 (9:18 pm)

            Appreciation only costs the homeowner (or tenant) money!!!  Stop believing that because a property is worth 4X what it was bought for that the owner is somehow “rich”!   I’m not trying to take second mortgage out against the new awesome value of my place or sell it right now.  Property taxes have doubled on me and will only increase.  (For an overall loss in services in my opinion)  Taxes and local cost of living are already a routine conversation in my home.  We will not retire here and wish to hell we never bought within the city.

        • K January 31, 2023 (6:54 pm)

          People live where they can find work.  There are for more jobs here than homes for employees.

          • Scarlett January 31, 2023 (8:40 pm)

            You dodged the question, of course, by reframing the argument.  

        • Kyle February 1, 2023 (8:42 am)

          I am implying that mentally ill people are everywhere. Our region’s failure to provide enough housing means that most of these folks now live on public streets. Other parts of the country haven’t solved mental illness either, they just have more housing available to more of their population. We have a hunger games mentality to housing out here.

  • anonyme January 31, 2023 (10:08 am)

    This is a much-needed resource.  However, cuts need to be made in the bloated bureaucracy of the homelessness budget to help pay for it.  Too much redundancy.

  • Ron Swanson January 31, 2023 (10:34 am)

    “Someone should do something about all these mentally ill homeless people wandering around”

    “No, not like that!”

  • snowskier January 31, 2023 (10:53 am)

    I do like the geographic spread across the country.  So glad the stopped the idea of creating a giant complex in the CID and are working to spread services out to areas not in Seattle so that we aren’t taking all the problems downtown.  Push the services out to where more of the people are.

  • anonyme January 31, 2023 (11:32 am)

    It’s also long past time to amend the state constitution to allow an income tax, rather than relying almost entirely on property taxes for revenue.  If the proposal were written in an intelligent way, simultaneously reducing the sales tax, I think a lot more people would support it. As long as it is presented as just one more additional tax, it will get nowhere.

  • Sillygoose January 31, 2023 (1:02 pm)

    Good Grief we are all going to have a mental health crisis if you don’t stop saddling us with these taxes.This all sounds dandy but how are you going to get those that need it committed?  Show me a complete plan, resources and successful programs in place that keep these individuals off the streets permanently!!!!! Have you even procured the land that this is going to take place on?

    • funlatley January 31, 2023 (1:44 pm)

      Here’s the plan  Crisis Care Centers Levy – King County  and it includes having designated crisis responders available to evaluate folks for involuntary commitment.

      • Involuntary is a bandaid January 31, 2023 (10:20 pm)

        The Holy Grail fix of involuntary commitment is a band-aid at best and a joke at worst. I work in an inpatient psych unit in Seattle. Aside from there being no beds in local hospitals (a serious problem), folks stay briefly until they’re detoxed or on meds… and then released… and then rinse, repeat.  The revolving door of inpatient doesn’t work. 

  • Derrick January 31, 2023 (1:21 pm)

    This is a fantastic way to make our region better. Our property values will only go UP at the end of the day if we can start tackling the mental health crisis and getting people off the streets. This is the exact kind of REAL observable intervention to tackle a problem, not bureaucratic bloat, but actual beds, mental health professionals, and mental health facilities. I look forward to enthusiastically voting YES for this measure. 

    • WW Resident January 31, 2023 (9:00 pm)

      LOL, you are so naive to think that government is going to fix anything. Billions of dollars spent from King County on the homeless. Buzz phrases like 10 year plan. How’s that going btw? Rhetorical, because it ain’t going well at all unless you think things getting worse is working. Government and no bureaucratic bloat?! Haha haha haha, that’s a good one. You have absolutely no idea how inept and wasteful our local government is. Ask anyone who has a city or county job and if they’re honest they’ll tell you the same

  • WSB January 31, 2023 (3:31 pm)

    Updated above – the county council is indeed sending this to voters.

    • Ivan Weiss January 31, 2023 (5:14 pm)

      Good. I’ll be voting YES. People need mental health help — I don’t see anybody denying that — and help costs money. Yes, my property taxes will go up. Yes, I am retired on a fixed income. No, I don’t give a rip. There are too many people in King County whose need is greater than mine, and  it’s my civic responsibility to help them.

  • Mike January 31, 2023 (6:01 pm)

    Keep in mind, this is for multiple years. If you have a $800k home now and it never increased in value for 12 years, the *least* amount you will pay is $1,392 over 12 years.  However, the amount taxed / $1,000 in home value will also go up years 2025-2032.  What you are voting on is just one of the multitude of taxes being added year over year.  This one just has an ever increasing amount for 12 years.  Housing is already expensive, this only compounds that.  

    • Mike January 31, 2023 (9:34 pm)

      Correction, this is 9 years not 12.  So the amount is a minimum of $1,044 if an $800k home never goes up in value.

  • wetone January 31, 2023 (6:14 pm)

    Don’t forget this is King County’s levy, then you have Inslee that’s asking  for a $$$ 9- 12 billion levy coming up. SDOT and Seattle Parks are also planning to ask for more money. So yes if you rent,  your rent will be going up to cover these increases. If you own a home and are on fixed income, retired or blue collar worker that lives in this city I wish you well because our government is planning on making our lives much tougher with in the next 2 yrs. I agree 100% we need to focus on mental health and drug rehabilitation issues, but I see nothing in writing how monies will be spent, just promises. Seattle government, King County and Inslee need to improve their accountability issues before I will ever vote yes for their levy’s. A billion dollars a year now being spent and issues have only got worse……..and government getting bigger. 

  • Auntie January 31, 2023 (8:48 pm)

    I’m not saying this is not a worthy project. What I am saying is that levy upon levy upon levy is making it harder and harder to support them. Is this the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Sure, my home is worth substantially more than when I bought it, but that value is being taxed and taxed and taxed and at some point I’ll have to give up and sell and move somewhere that I can afford.

  • Scubafrog January 31, 2023 (11:40 pm)

    Good mental health is priceless, I’m in.

  • Scarlett February 1, 2023 (6:48 am)

    According to some on the blog here, no one is guaranteed a place to live, why should it be any different for those who can’t – or so they claim anyway – afford to remain in their home because of taxes?  There are downsizing options, or options for taking on a roommate or renter.  In most cases homeowners are sitting on a goldmine of accrued equity due to a decade of low interest rates that have, by the way, penalized savers.   It’s the sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander type of thing. 

    • WW Resident February 1, 2023 (9:54 am)

      So conflating people who are homeless often because of the choices they made, the bridges they’ve burned with both family members and friends with people who made better choices, were responsible, and worked for what they have only to be taxed, taxed, and taxed again by the government which drives them to be poorer and poorer, not by the choices they made, but the choices the government made for them to pay for those including the former I mentioned is the same thing. OK, got it, carry on

      • Scarlett February 2, 2023 (7:34 am)

        First of all, you didn’t bother to read my comment or you were more intent in inserting a straw man argument of your own into the discussion, a wild tangent that has no bearing on anything.  Seems to be favorite childish tactic around around here.  As such, I won’t even bother to dissect it.   

    • 1994 February 1, 2023 (10:22 pm)

      Per the comment by Scarlett: In most cases homeowners are sitting on a goldmine of accrued equity.  Have you heard the term house rich cash poor? That equity may be the only ‘savings’ people have. People have to live somewhere. If they sell their goldmine of equity it will be surely spent on the next place to live.  Just because people have scrimped, saved, paid their taxes, and paid for their house over decades! doesn’t mean they are floating in excess cash. 

  • Scarlett February 2, 2023 (6:51 am)

    And your point, 1994?  Many renters work hard, scrimp and save to remain in their apartments, and they don’t have the safety net of being “house rich.”   Can’t afford the taxes on your home?  Downize. As I said above, homeowners are a protected class in this country, reaping financial benefits that others don’t receive, and then they think they are entitled to that house.  

  • Scarlett February 2, 2023 (8:29 am)

    I have to laugh at those lecturing me about investments as someone who worked in the financial services early in my life before changing careers – thank god.  A house is an investment, like a car.  You can’t afford to maintain that investment, you downize.   Some of you expect renters to live where they can afford.  Okay, the same advice can be applied to homeowners.  Take all that accrued equity and buy a smaller home, or take on a roommate/renter.  And please, spare me the cliches about  “Aunt Mabel” who is clipping coupons and is one property tax payment away from losing her house – most elderly are eligible for property tax reductions.   Oh, and yes, renters “scrimp and save” too.  

Sorry, comment time is over.