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Seattle homeowners face sticker shock with new levies

Jun 5, 2024, 4:37 PM

Photo: Seattle homeowners should be prepared for sticker shock after an approved housing levy and p...

Seattle homeowners should be prepared for sticker shock after an approved housing levy and proposed transportation levy take shape. (Photo courtesy of Sightline Institute via Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo courtesy of Sightline Institute via Flickr Creative Commons)

Seattle homeowners should be prepared for sticker shock when they open their property tax bills next year following the 2023 approval of a $970 million affordable housing levy and a potential $1.55 billion transportation levy city voters could see on the November ballot.

The most recent Seattle Transportation Levy Proposal by Seattle City Council Member and Transportation Committee Chair Rob Saka, introduced Tuesday, adds $100 million to Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s proposed $1.45 billion plan.

Should Saka’s plan make its way into a fall ballot measure, it would pencil out to $499 a year to a property owner of an $866,000 home. That’s $30 more a year than the mayor’s plan and roughly $223 more than what the same owner is paying for the expiring 2015 Move Seattle transportation levy.

The yearly tax for the nearly $1 billion housing levy passed by city voters by a 69% to 31% margin in November would cost that same homeowner about $390 per year, an increase of $265 from the current housing levy.

Rising costs: Seattleites may have to pay $41 per month for transportation levy

Homeowners could pay nearly $1,000 more a year

Add it up, that’s roughly $900 per year for the owner of an $866,000 house, an increase of $488 from what they are paying now.

“That’s going to be sticker shock for a lot of Seattle homeowners,” former Seattle City Council member Alex Pedersen, speaking about the transportation levy, said.

He said over the last several years, Seattle has been in a mood of taxing itself with the doubling of the property tax portion that deals with parks, tripling the housing levy, raising money for crisis care centers, and bonds for an update to Harborview Medical Center.

“These are all good causes, but the transportation levy is questionable because it doesn’t have to cost that much,” Pedersen, who served as the Council Transportation Chairman during his tenure, said.

Pedersen: New Seattle levy is ‘making same mistakes’

He said the new tax levy is “making the same mistakes as the old levy.”

“It has huge pet projects that are very expensive, rather than focusing on the basics such as repaving the roads, fixing our bridges, and building more sidewalks,” Pedersen said. “It’s unaffordable, inequitable, and ineffective.”

During Tuesday’s committee hearing by the Select Committee on the 2024 Transportation Levy, Saka promoted several aspects of his proposal, saying it includes accountability measures to make sure the money is well spent.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that this levy quite literally has the ability to save lives,” he said. “Too many people are dying on our roads and streets, and we are growing further away from our Vision Zero goals.”

The chair’s amendment, as it’s being called, would increase spending on new sidewalks in areas where there are none, triple funding for safety improvements on public transit, and increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations, among other things.

More transportation: Vashon Islanders can’t wait another 4 years for new ferry

New transportation levy to reduce deadly crashes, fund repairs

The baseline proposal by Harrell sets aside the largest chunk of the levy money, $423 million, for repaving arterial streets that carry the most buses, trucks, and cars. While $221 million will go to keeping bridges in “reliable working condition,” $162 million to meet Vision Zero goals of reducing traffic collisions and fatalities at problematic intersections, $135 million to build and repair sidewalks and $114 million to expand Seattle’s protected bike lane network.

There are several more projects that round out the mayor’s levy total of $1.45 billion.

Pedersen said the council would better serve the public if the levy was broken up into separate ballot measures.

“Each idea should be able to stand on its own instead of being camouflaged or hidden by other components,” Pedersen said.

A final council vote on the complete levy package is scheduled for July 2, the last possible day for the levy to be submitted for the November 7 ballot.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, or email him here.

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