Sound Publishing file photo

Sound Publishing file photo

King County Council authorizes staff to draft road levy ballot measure

The county is projected to run out of capital funding for roads and bridges by 2025.

Voters in unincorporated King County could be asked to increase a levy lid to help fund roads amid a decline in revenues.

If approved by voters, the levy lid could be raised to $2.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is the maximum the county is allowed to collect. Currently, the collection rate is about $1.81 per $1,000 of assessed property value. In total, the levy could generate around $164 million over eight years, or some $22 million annually. While significant, it’s far less than what is needed to fully fund the county’s roads department.

“Even if we did get $22 million it would help, but it would not solve the problem,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert at an Oct. 28 meeting of the Local Services committee.

The committee directed staff to begin drafting an ordinance that could appear on the ballot during the August or November elections in 2020. Even if it passes, further funding mechanisms will have to be found.

Currently only about 11 percent of residents in the county are paying to maintain infrastructure like roads and bridges in unincorporated areas. Many areas — and their respective tax bases — already have been annexed into cities. King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci said cities would likely have to chip in to support the infrastructure in the future.

“The fix to adequate county road funding is going to be a countywide fix. There’s just no way to support the level of infrastructure need that we have entirely out of revenue from unincorporated King County,” Balducci said.

The county is projected to run out of capital funding for roads and bridges by 2025. About 80 percent of the county’s roads budget comes from property taxes from the roads levy. As the county’s tax base shrinks, property value has also risen faster than the 1 percent, which the county is allowed to raise property taxes annually.

When the county runs out of capital funding, it won’t have money for new construction and will essentially be “managing the decline,” as Lambert puts it.

Roads and bridges in unincorporated King County see an average of 1 million vehicle trips a day. Maintenance for the infrastructure is only paid for by the roughly 250,000 residents in unincorporated parts of the county. Additionally, there’s not much commercial activity outside of cities, so the county doesn’t get much sales tax.

On top of the levy, the county could ask voters to approve a taxing district, which could raise between $5 million and $10 million annually. A previous district was repealed in 2014.

However, even those wouldn’t bridge the budget gap the county is facing. To maintain and improve roads, the county needs at least an additional $250 million. If that amount isn’t found, the county could start closing rural bridges and letting roads return to gravel.

By 2040, the county predicts some 35 bridges will be either closed or have weight restrictions placed on them.

[flipp]

More in News

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Democratic lawmakers roll out spending plans for climate change, homelessness

Republican opposition calls for tax relief, rather than spending the increased revenue.

MIHS Principal Vicki Puckett. File photo
MIHS principal Puckett announces pending resignation

A survey will collect feedback on what community is looking for in candidates.

PNW plant-based foods could help in climate fight

Animal products create a lot of emissions, but veggie alternatives are coming from King County.

The Colstrip Power Plant in Montana. Puget Sound Energy owns 25 percent of the remaining two units. File photo
PSE files to sell part of Colstrip coal plant

The utility owns two units at the Montana power plant.

Fentanyl (Courtesy photo)
Fentanyl overdoses keep increasing in King County

Meth overdoses are on the rise as well, continuing a trend reported on last year.

Charter review could overhaul King County Sheriff’s Office

Several changes to the King County Sheriff’s Office were proposed.

The language of the original bill prohibited privately-owned detainment facilities from being contracted by local, state, or federal government entities, but a last-second amendment was adopted to substantially narrow the focus of the legislation. File photo
Lawmakers flinch on banning for-profit detention facilities

Last minute amendment exempted ICE detainment facility.

Natalie DeFord / staff photo
                                People walk past the Mercer Island Park and Ride on a cloudy morning.
Parking permit sales for February

Optional reservations for Mercer Island Park and Ride.

Most Read