The King County Council approved a ballot measure to increase the countywide sales tax by 0.2 percent on July 26. If signed by County Executive Dow Constantine, the new measure, Ordinance 2010-0365, will be headed for the November ballot.
According to Council Communications Director Al Sanders, the measure would generate approximately $35 million in revenue for King County in fiscal year 2011 and $48 million in 2012, the first full year the tax would be collected.
The county faces a $60 million budget deficit in the upcoming year, and given that criminal justice agencies account for 75 percent of its budget, public safety services stand to bear the brunt of expected cuts.
If approved by voters in November, the revenue would be used to fund the county's public safety services, such as the county Sheriff's office and the court system.
In addition, 40 percent of tax proceeds would go to cities within King County, including Seattle, and as per state law, a third of this money must be spent on criminal justice services.
Unlike an earlier ordinance, 2010-0365 includes financing for the Youth Center as part of the sales tax measure.
Urgently needed renovations to the Youth Center, the county's juvenile-justice facility, are estimated at over $20 million. In a July 12 council meeting, advocates of replacing the Youth Center testified that its current condition is unsafe and in violation of the county's health code.
If approved, half of the sales tax will expire in three years and the second half would remain in effect for 20 years in order to finance the construction of the Youth Center.
Although council members are officially nonpartisan, political ties were apparent in Monday's 5-4 vote, with Democrats voting in favor of 2010-0365 and Republicans voting against it.
Constantine is expected to sign the ordinance in the coming days.