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Patterson releases details of early renewal and expansion of Veterans and Human Services Levy


Dedicated funding for public health would be added


In an effort to prevent the loss of vital public health and human service programs throughout King County, Metropolitan King County Councilmember Julia Patterson today released the specific details of her legislation that would ask voters in November to renew the Veterans and Human Services Levy two years early.

“I’ve unveiled a property tax proposal that will maintain current levels of funding for human services and will result in far fewer cuts to public health than the 2010 budget anticipates,” said Patterson, chair of Health and Human Services issues on the Council and chair of the King County Board of Health. “Given the dire economy, and the many struggling families trying to hold onto their homes, I believe it is appropriate to put forth a modest tax proposal to preserve these vital programs.”

The Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee will discuss the proposal at its July 21 meeting starting at 1:30 p.m. Members are expected to take action on the proposal at the meeting.

“We are facing some very stark choices on programs that are needed now more than ever,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, chair of the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “We need to discuss this proposal to ensure that the public is aware about how dire our financial situation is.”

Historically, the County’s general fund has been the principal source of funding for health and human services, but in recent years has become increasingly strained as revenues to the County continue to decline. Balancing the 2010 budget will likely require approximately $50 million in cuts, or nearly 10 percent of the general fund – on top of the $93 million cut needed to balance the 2009 budget.

The proposed levy will expand the levy rate by 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which will raise about $45 million and cost the average homeowner approximately $40 a year.

The Veterans and Human Services renewal will expand the scope to include additional programs for veterans and human services, and add funding for health services. The first 3 cents, or about $9.3 million, will be dedicated to veterans programs that are funded by the existing levy. This is an increase by about $3.3 million from the current levy.

The next $18 million, which will remain fixed throughout the life of the levy, will be dedicated to human services programs – both those being funded by the existing levy and those being funded by the county’s general fund. Programs include domestic violence and sexual assault, youth and family services, food banks, and homeless services.

The final piece of the levy is for public health, which in the first year will raise about $18 million. In the out-years, the public health portion will increase as overall assessments increase, due to the greater increases in medical expenses compared to the rate of inflation and other expenses.

“I am not advocating that the King County Council raise these taxes,” said Patterson. “My goal is to allow the voters to decide whether or not they want to raise their taxes in order to fund veterans, health and human services programs in 2010 and beyond.”

The proposed levy will expand the levy rate by 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which will raise about $45 million and cost the average homeowner approximately $40 a year.

King County voters approved the first Veterans and Human Services Levy in 2005. The levy currently raises $13.3 million per year for six years for housing and humans services and will expire in 2011. Half of the funding supports programs for veterans and their families and half support programs for all King County residents in need of human services. Through an earlier renewal of the levy, additional dedicated funding would become available for health services.

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