UPDATED: Voters rejecting Mercer Island’s Proposition 1

The levy lid lift would continue funding police, fire, parks, safety net services at current levels.

Mercer Island’s Proposition 1, a levy lid lift for public safety, youth, family and senior services and parks and recreation, needed a simple majority to pass. In initial returns, it was failing, with about 43 percent of Islanders voting “Yes” and 57 voting “No.”

The six-year levy lid lift, if approved, would have continued funding police and emergency services, mental health counseling, safety net services, maintenance of parks, trails, playgrounds and ball fields and recreation services at current levels. It would cost the owner of an average home on Mercer Island (which is $1.2 million, according to 2017 assessed valuation) about $374 a year from 2019-2024 ($286 in the first year with a 3 percent annual increase).

While the current 2017-2018 budget has been temporarily balanced using a one-time surplus, the city is projecting significant deficits, especially in its general fund, starting in 2019, increasing to $7.42 million in 2024.

City manager Julie Underwood has already presented a list of potential cuts, which will start with the parks and Youth and Family Services departments, as they are deemed “discretionary” services. Underwood also proposed cutting the deputy fire chief position, freezing a police patrol officer position, eliminating lifeguards at city beaches, scaling back on special events, reducing the amount of elementary school counselors from four to two and more.

Supporters of the measure said that Prop 1 was a quality of life decision and that any cuts made to balance the budget will mean cuts to services. Opponents argued that the city needs to implement efficiencies before raising taxes.

Islanders Yes, the pro-levy group, posted on its Facebook page that group members “wish the result would have been different,” but thanked supporters for their participation.

“Now the hard work begins. In the coming months, the city council, staff, and all of the organizations the city supports will be working to move forward in light of the community’s decision about Prop 1,” the group wrote. “We expect the debates and robust conversations to continue. Many of us on the team will be involved in those conversations and we look forward to your continued engagement, too.”

Heather Cartwright, member of the anti-levy group Mercer Islanders for Sustainable Spending, wrote in a statement to the Reporter echoed that the city has “a great opportunity now to come together with ideas with ideas on how to achieve that and make our Island stronger.”

“We all love Mercer Island and value it’s community services like fire, police, mental health counselors, and parks. Prop 1 wasn’t about whether we support those services, it was about how we’re spending our tax dollars,” she wrote. “In this election, Islanders voiced that we want to see more accountability in our city budget, just like we have accountability in own budgets at home. Prioritizing spending efficiencies first makes sense, and citizens are asking our council and city manager to evaluate city spending and better align it for a sustainable future.”

Washington votes by mail and ballots could be postmarked as late as Election Day on Nov. 6. Election results can also be found at www.kingcounty.gov/elections. The election will be certified on Nov. 27.

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