Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The difference 2 cents can make ...

Proposed King County levy renewal could have a big impact on human services ... or be stretched thin

What does 2 cents mean? 

That's a question the King County Council and the Regional Policy Committee are grappling with. The council wants to put an expanded levy on the November ballet to benefit veterans, seniors, and human services. The planning commission wants to scale it back. But what looks like a modest reduction could have a big impact on an expanded list of vulnerable populations that the levy would support.

The original ask was a 12-cent levy rate for $1,000 of assessed value. For someone who owns a home worth $450,000 (the median in King County), that adds up to $54 a year.

An amendment that passed the Regional Policy Committee scales back the rate to 10 cents per $1,000. That brings the bill for a $450,000 home down to $45.

So for homeowners, the difference is modest. But the impact on services? That's another story.

That 2 cent reduction adds up to millions less for survivors of domestic violence -- or refugees, or people with developmental disabilities who are in danger of homelessness.

That two cents is the difference between reaching people who really need help, and stretching the money too thinly to have impact.


King County has a levy in place dedicated to supports for veterans and their families, and to improving health, human services and housing. It has impact and is popular, but it ends this year.

Since first voted on in 2005, the Veterans and Human Services Levy has provided an increasingly large share of King County’s funding for essential basic human services. Because of how the county’s general fund is structured, money available for human services is limited. The county relies on this levy for key supports.

To continue existing services, the levy must be renewed. To add more human services, the levy also needs to increase.

GOOD NEWS: The King County Council is working on a levy renewal that would provide services to more people. The new levy would serve veterans, seniors and “vulnerable populations,” which includes people with disabilities and their caregivers, among other groups. It also requires half the money raised to fund housing stability in the first year.

The new levy – called the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy -- is expected to raise $60.7 million. This would be divided into thirds. One third for veterans and housing stability for veterans. One third for seniors and housing stability for seniors. One third for vulnerable populations and housing for vulnerable populations.

In the second year, less would go to housing, freeing up money to expand services for veterans, seniors and vulnerable populations.

  • $5.7 million would be available to expand services in the second year.

BAD NEWS: The proposal needs to be approved by both the King County Council and the Regional Policy Committee. Some members of the Regional Policy Committee are worried that the proposal asks for too much. They voted to reduce the amount that would be raised. Instead of taxing 12 cents per $1,000 assessed value, they want to tax 10 cents per assessed value.

WHAT 2 CENTS MEANS: The upshot is only $3.3 million would be available in the second year to expand services to vulnerable populations.

This group includes (but is not limited to) survivors of domestic violence; survivors of sexual assault; survivors of human trafficking; survivors of sexual exploitation; people with disabilities; family caregivers of people with disabilities; people living in homelessness or at risk of homelessness; refugees; low-income people from rural communities; people living in poverty; people re-entering society from criminal justice system involvement; and people at risk of criminal justice system involvement due to disproportionate law enforcement practices, mental illness or substance use disorders.

The programs that could be funded would be wonderful – programs to fund healthy living, housing and financial stability, social engagement, system access and more.

OUR QUESTION: Will $3.3 million be enough to have any impact?

We don’t think so. What we fear is that people who really need support will be left out. That is why we are flagging this issue. If you want to expand services available to people with disabilities and their family caretakers -- or another vulnerable population -- you may want to weigh in and ask your King County Councilmember to stand by the original ask of 12 cents per $1,000 assessed value.

- Ramona Hattendorf, Director of Advocacy, The Arc of King County


FYI on using a pre-written message: Messages are always stronger if you make them your own -- always try to add some of your story to it. And of course if you disagree with parts of a pre-written message, be sure to edit it. A number of groups use Action Alerts, or pre-written messages that you can click and send. They are easy to act on, but some legislative staff say they disregard if they all have the same subject line and same message. TIP: Edit the subject line and edit the top of the message to make it your own.

SUBJECT: Please support 12 cents for veterans, seniors and human services

Dear Councilmember ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____________,

What does 2 cents mean? When it comes to renewal of the popular King County Veterans and Human Services Levy it can mean the difference between serving more vulnerable people, and stretching the money too thinly to have impact.

I am _________________ and I advocate to make sure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families thrive in the community. There are 34,000 people with I/DD in King County and most do not get state services. They rely on family and community support.

Recently the proposed Veterans, Seniors and Human Services levy ordinance was amended to cut 2 cents from the assessment rate. I’m writing to ask you to support the original ask of 12 cents per $1,000 assessed property value.

For your median $450,000 home, trimming 2 cents saves $9, annually.

The money raised would support veterans, seniors and vulnerable populations.

Looking at the math – and the plan for how money will be divided between groups and housing set asides -- cutting 2 cents means that instead of $5.7 million available for new services for vulnerable populations, the county will have just $3.3 million.

And when you look at the long list of groups who have been singled out as vulnerable, you see a long list of people who are being promised help, but who are unlikely to get it.

For survivors of domestic violence, or refugees, or people with developmental disabilities in danger of homelessness, two cents means having enough money for impact. It means an additional $2.4 million annually to fund programs that give people stability and help them thrive.

Can I count on you to work with fellow councilmembers to return the levy rate back to 12 cents? It would mean so much.


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