Northwest NEWS

June 1, 1998

Local News

Snohomish County holds public hearing on bond, levy

  by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   EVERETT--Snohomish County voters will get their say on whether the County Council should put a $615 million package of tax increases for roads, parks and water projects on the ballot this fall. The Council is holding two public hearings June 17 on the proposal. The hearings, held in the County Administration building in Everett, 3000 Rockefeller Avenue, begin at 3 p.m. in the Council chambers, and are continued at 6 p.m. in the Ginni Stevens Room.
   The five-part package has been proposed by ASCENT 21, a group of business, education and governmental leaders which has been in existence for about a year. County Executive Bob Drewel co-chairs the group. ASCENT 21 forwarded their idea as well as a list of rounded-off project figures to the County Council recently. This is what they propose over the next 10 years:
More than half of the total funds would come from a $345 million bond that would raise property taxes $.85 per $1,000 of assessed value. Among local projects, money would go to transportation projects on State Routes 9, 524 and 527, 228th St. S.E., 35th Ave. S.E. The bond would cost the owner of a $150,000 home $127.50 a year.
   Another $60 million would be raised by a 2.3 cent a gallon increase on gas for other transportation projects. Cost for a vehicle averaging 20 miles per gallon and driven 15,000 miles a year and only fueled up in the county, would be about $17.
   To fund the acquisition, construction and maintenance of park and recreation facilities, a $.10 cent per $1,000 of assessed value levy is being proposed. Locally, $1.7 million of the $40 million it would raise would go for a trail linking King and Snohomish counties. Cost would be $15 a year for a $150,000 home.
   A .41 percent tax on real estate sales would raise $130 million with funds going to buy conservation areas and trail easements around Little Bear Creek, Swamp Creek and upper Paradise Valley. Cost on the sale of a $200,000 home would be $820.
   Finally, a $.10 per $1,000 of assessed value levy would go for water and sewer improvements. Over $16 million would go for the Clearview Group's water pipeline.

   ASCENT 21 estimates it would cost the average two-car family slightly under $200 a year for the ten year life of the plan. Over $400 million would be spent on regional needs and $190 million would be distributed to local jurisdictions. Proponents such as John Thoresen, president of the Snohomish County Economic Development Board have been quoted as saying the measures are the "right thing to do at the right time."
   According to ASCENT 21 staffer, Michael Cade, the proposal would meet identified, yet unfunded needs. He said 120,000 more people are coming to the 2,000 square mile county in the next 10 years with 140,000 having come in the last ten. "It's quite obvious infrastructure hasn't kept up in response to growth," Cade said. He said the plan would equitably collect and distribute tax revenues over the whole county. But critics like the Pilchuck Audubon Society say it would only clear the way for additional growth.
   There has been support for the measures so far. Earlier this year, a poll by EMC Research of Seattle was commissioned. It found that of 502 county residents, 91 percent believe that if a plan to meet critical infrastructure needs isn't passed soon, roads and highways would become crowded and unsafe, and 83 percent thought parks and open space would become overcrowded. Nearly 80 percent said quality of life would continue to deteriorate, and 63 percent said they were willing to increase taxes to pay for improvements. Error of margin was 4.4 percent.
   The Everett Herald polled four of the five-member County Council last week and reported that a majority were in favor of putting the proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot. But the poll that matters most will be what the voters decide. A simple majority is needed for approval of four of the measures; 60 percent approval is needed for the bond.
   ASCENT 21 stands for Addressing Snohomish County's Environment Now and Tomorrow for the 21st Century. For more specific information, call 425-259-2111.