Veteran, human services funding expected

  • Brooke Fisher<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:45am

Voter approval of the veteran and human services levy – which passed with a considerable margin – will likely fund both county and local programs.

“You don’t often see a property tax increase with such resounding support in the community,” said Metro King County Council member Bob Ferguson, who supported the measure. “The margin surprised a lot of people.”

Proposition 1, which received 57.8 percent of votes, passed with a 15 percent margin in the general election. The measure will provide about $13.3 million in funding for both veterans programs and human services needs with a King County property tax levy of 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for six years.

“It is a significant amount of money for human services,” Ferguson said, “divided evenly between veteran programs and human services programs.”

Ferguson, who currently serves District 2 and will eventually serve District 1, was one of the levy’s strongest proponents. As chair of the Regional Policy Committee, the body from which the legislation originated in January, Ferguson originally sponsored the levy. It was originally presented as a veterans measure and was eventually expanded to include human services.

“Like any piece of legislation we had public hearings and plenty of debate,” Ferguson said. “And as a result of that it became clear there was great interest in broadening the package to include social service organizations.”

Ferguson worked with colleagues to increase the levy amount slightly and arrange for the amount to eventually be divided in half. In the voter pamphlet, Ferguson said there was no opposition to the measure, which was endorsed by King County Council Democrats and Republicans.

Two citizen oversight groups will eventually be formed, each consisting of 12 members, who will decide how to allot funding. Although the committees will influence where money is spent, the County Council will ultimately make the final decision.

“They will make sure the dollars are being spent efficiently,” Ferguson said. “But the county is the final decision maker.”

It is yet to be determined how District 1 may benefit from the funding.

“Without any question, dollars from this levy will help District 1,” Ferguson said. “Although the specifics are to be determined.”

The levy was needed, Ferguson said, because more veterans and reservists are seeking treatment, and there is an ongoing struggle to more fully fund social service programs in light of cuts that were made at national, state, county and city levels in the past five years.

“The county has had to cut millions in the last few years in programs they are now trying to restore,” Ferguson said. “Funding from this level will help to accomplish that.”

Daniel Pitchford, supervisor for all Compass Center facilities, which serve veterans, said the Shoreline facility, which houses 25 veterans, may eventually benefit from levy funding.

“We are totally in the dark right now as to how much we will get,” Pitchford said, “if anything.”

Rob Beem, Health and Human Services manager for the city of Shoreline, said there are a lot of decisions to be made for how to allocate funding. Funding would be allocated by the county, he said.

“I expect Shoreline will be working with partners in King County to ensure that the funds allocated reach services in Shoreline and other north county communities,” Beem said. “The north end has generally been under served.”

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