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Split King County Council Puts Parks Levy Renewal on August Ballot

Voters will decide on Aug. 6 whether to replace two expiring levies with one to support King County's 200-plus parks, as well as to operate and expand its regional trails system.

Voters will decide on Aug. 6 whether to renew a property tax levy that raises revenue to support King County’s regional parks system after a 7-2 vote Monday by the county council.

Council Members Reagan Dunn and Kathy Lambert voted against putting the levy on the ballot, with Lambert expressing concern in a news release “that the proposal as written may impede the ability of other junior taxing districts, such as fire and hospital districts, from full funding of their own levies.”

The adopted proposal sends to voters a six-year property tax levy lid lift of 18.77 cents per $1,000 of assessed value – an estimated $56 per year for the owner of a home valued at $300,000.

The levy would replace two expiring 2007 levy lid lift measures, each raising 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. If the new levy lid lift passes, that means property taxes would increase an estimated $26.31 over the current rate for the owner of a home valued at $300,000.

If approved, the levy would replace two set to expire at the end of 2013.

The money will go to maintain and operate King County's 200 parks, 175 miles of regional trails, and 26,000 acres of open space. Levy revenue would also be used to expand the regional trails system and to expand the Community Partnership and Grant program.

King County parks and trails touch almost every major city in the county. They include Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park near Renton, Big Finn Hill Park in Kirkland, Marymoor Park in Redmond and regional trails such as the Burke-Gilman and the Sammamish trails — which together stretch from Seattle past Bothell, Woodinville and Redmond to Issaquah.

“All residents of King County have access to the regional park and trail system,” Council Chair Larry Gossett said in a press release. “This ordinance will give the people the opportunity to decide how much value they get from the system.”

An amendment offered by Council Members Rod Demboski and Jane Hague increases the frequency of the Parks Levy Citizens Oversight Board’s report from biennial to annual, to make the levy more transparent. It also requires that in addition to the King County Executive and the King County Council, the report would be delivered to the Regional Policy Committee (RPC). Reporting to the RPC ensures inclusion of cities throughout the region.

“I thank Council Members Dembowski and Hague for sponsoring this amendment to increase transparency and involvement of cities in King County in the regional parks levy,” Renton Mayor Denis Law, President of the Sound Cities Association, said in another press release. “This amendment helps ensure that our cities and residents have a better understanding of the costs and benefits of this levy.”

Last November, Kirkland residents approved a separate property tax levy to support that city's own parks system.

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