King County parks levy headed to August primary ballots

Voters will be asked to decide whether to approve the levy on Aug. 6.

A parks and open spaces levy will be presented to King County voters on an Aug. 6 ballot which would raise property taxes for six years.

The proposed levy will ask voters to authorize a levy which is expected to generate about $810 million through an initial levy rate increase of some 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The current median price of a home in the county is about $610,000 amounting to a levy of $102.60 per year, up from the current rate of $77 each year.

The ballot measure was approved by the King County Council at an April 17 meeting.

“Congratulations on this package of legislation — it’s one of the most important things King County does,” council chair Rod Dembowsi said at the meeting.

The ballot measure was approved alongside provisions outlining ways the money would be spent. Up to $8 million from the first four years would go to the Seattle Aquarium’s Ocean Pavilion project. Some 40 percent of the levy would be for maintenance and operations of the county’s parks system, 47 percent for land acquisitions, capital projects and community partnerships and grants. About 8 percent would be distributed to the cities and 5 percent would go to the Woodland Park Zoo for environmental education, conservation of threatened species and climate mitigation for the animals housed there.

The education portion of the Woodland Park Zoo allocation would have an emphasis on the increasing access to the park, open spaces and recreation for disadvantaged groups.

Several trails projects were also earmarked in the proposal. They include $50 million for the Eastside Rail Corridor, $32 million for the East Lake Sammamish Trail, $16 million for the Lake to Sound Trail, $5 million for the Foothills Trail, $9 million for the Green to Cedar Rivers Trail, $5.5 million for the Interurban Trail South, $6 million for the Green River Trail Extension North and $2 million for the Wayne Connector Trail.

While those are earmarked projects, they are also projects the county intends to pursue regardless of whether the levy passes. Another $44 million would go toward parks upgrades, including play area rehabilitation and ballfields turf replacements.

The ordinance would also re-establish a citizen oversight board made up of one member from each of the nine county council districts. Under the current levy, members are serving through the middle of 2020.

The measure states there will be exemptions for low-income people.

“I thank the county councilmembers for their thorough review of my proposal to support and expand our parks and trails system while protecting forests and green space,” King County executive Dow Constantine said in a press release. “The renewed King County Parks Levy would connect and improve regional trails, increase access to green space, and help keep parks clean, safe and open throughout our rapidly growing region.”

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