Hearing to focus on tax proposal to battle heroin, homelessness

  • By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
  • Monday, May 2, 2016 8:23pm
  • Local News

EVERETT — Faced with a growing heroin crisis and complaints about property crimes, some of Snohomish County’s top elected leaders are planning to ask voters to approve a new criminal justice sales tax.

The countywide proposal for a 0.2 percent increase would appear on the Aug. 2 ballot, if the County Council decides to move it along. The council has scheduled a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

“The homelessness issue, the heroin epidemic and property crimes really seem to be on the public’s mind,” county Executive Dave Somers said. “It’s not just here, it’s throughout the region.”

The measure would require a simple majority to pass, Somers’ office said. It would add 2 cents to a $10 purchase, starting Jan. 1.

The new tax would cost the average Snohomish County household an extra $94.37 per year, county finance staff estimate.

Without the additional revenue, some of the county’s criminal justice functions could face cutbacks next year.

As is, 75 cents of every dollar in the county’s operating budget pays for patrol deputies, the jail, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the courts and related services. That ratio has grown over time; in 1980, about half of the county’s discretionary spending went toward law and justice.

Somers said the extra money would complement an initiative his office started earlier this year to improve efficiency and customer service. Those efforts began with a pilot project at the county’s permit desk, with plans to expand to other departments.

“We’re not just throwing money at the problem, we’re trying to get more efficient and smart with the money we spend,” Somers said.

Sheriff Ty Trenary said he’s looking toward a consultant’s report released last fall to guide how he would spend any new revenue. Etico Solutions, of Macomb, Illinois, outlined suggestions for better efficiency that the sheriff office has put to use already.

“It really gave us a road map of how we can improve law enforcement in Snohomish County,” Trenary said.

The consultant’s report recommended adding 48 new deputies, though the sheriff’s office wouldn’t be able to hire that many even after a successful sales-tax measure.

In addition to adding staff, the sheriff wants to improve the training deputies receive for dealing with people who suffer from mental illness or drug addiction.

“You can’t show up, make an arrest, write a report and consider the problem solved,” Trenary said. “We have to look at a holistic approach.”

In many instances, the public interest is better served when police and social workers get repeat offenders into treatment and low-barrier housing, rather than sending them to jail, he said.

Revenue from the new tax would be split, with 60 percent going to the county and 40 percent divided among local cities on a per-capita basis.

The measure would raise more than $15 million per year for the county, plus more than $10 million for local cities, county finance staff estimate.

“We have to do our best to go to the public and sell it,” County Councilman Brian Sullivan said. “It’s really whether people want to tax themselves. Remember, a lot of this money goes directly to city police departments and fire departments. It’s a shared value and it’s my hope that people will support it.”

Mill Creek and Monroe already impose a 0.1 percent sales tax for criminal justice costs. Those cities would see their tax rise by 0.1 percent if the measure were to pass.

Mill Creek has the highest sales tax in the state. The city’s tax rose to 9.9 percent April 1. Consumers in Edmonds, Mukilteo, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and the Snohomish County part of Bothell pay 9.8 cents per dollar in sales tax.

In November, another tax measure is likely to appear on the ballot. The Sound Transit 3 proposal would boost sales tax by 0.5 percent — 5 cents for a $10 purchase. That would come on top of the 0.9 percent in sales tax that Sound Transit already collects.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

A BNSF train crosses Grove St/72nd St, NE in Marysville, Washington on March 17, 2022. Marysville recently got funding for design work for an overcrossing at the intersection. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
BNSF owes nearly $400M to Washington tribe, judge rules

A federal judge ruled last year that the railroad trespassed as it sent trains carrying crude oil through the Swinomish Reservation.

Everett Housing Authority is asking for city approval for its proposed development of 16 acres of land currently occupied by the vacant Baker Heights public housing development on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett inches closer to Park District affordable housing plan

Building heights — originally proposed at 15 stories tall — could be locked in with council approval in July.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

The intersection of Larch Way, Logan Road and Locust Way on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 in Alderwood Manor, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Roundabout project to shut down major Bothell intersection for months

The $4.5 million project will rebuild the four-way stop at Larch and Locust ways. The detour will stretch for miles.

State Sen. Mark Mullet, left, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, right, are both running as Democrats for governor in 2024. (Photos courtesy of Mullet and Ferguson campaigns)
Rival Democrats spar over fundraising in Washington governor’s race

Mark Mullet is questioning Bob Ferguson’s campaign finance connections with the state party. Ferguson says the claims are baseless.

A log truck rolled over into power lines on Monday, June 17, in Darrington. (Photo provided by Alexis Monical)
Log truck rolls into utility lines in Darrington, knocking out power

The truck rolled over Monday morning at the intersection of Highway 530 and Fullerton Avenue. About 750 addresses were without power.

A house fire seriously injured two people Friday evening, June 14, in Edmonds, Washington. (Courtesy of South County Fire.)
1 killed, 1 with life-threatening injuries in Edmonds house fire

South County Fire crews pulled the man and woman from the burning home around 6 p.m. Friday, near 224th Street SW and 72nd Place W.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.