In the November election, Bothell voters will be asked to decide on two ballot measures: a levy lid lift for operations and a capital bond measure to support police and fire services and facilities.
At its June 19 meeting, the Bothell City Council unanimously voted to propose the measures “after a rigorous assessment of police and fire needs and resources, and extensive community outreach,” according to a city press release.
“Our public safety servants are facing significant changes in law enforcement, including increasing demands due to the opioid epidemic, homelessness and mental illness in our community, as well as new and complex legal requirements,” Mayor Andy Rheume stated in the press release. “The council felt it was important to put these measures in front of voters now to stay one step ahead of emerging issues.”
If approved, the measures would fund additional police and fire staff, rebuild two fire stations, provide resources to maintain current service levels and provide preventive, community-oriented police and fire services in the future.
The city estimated the operating need at $11 million a year, and the capital needs at $73.5 million overall.
The Public Safety Levy will address operating needs, including funding 27 additional firefighters, support staff and police officers (including a PROACT team and school outreach and safety officer) to provide timely, reliable responses to Bothell residents. The Public Safety Capital Bond will fund the complete rebuild of two of Bothell’s three aging fire stations (Canyon Park and downtown).
The total cost of both measures is about $350 per year on a $500,000 home.
“We’re offering services a little bit beyond our capacity…and this makes it a little more sustainable,” said assistant city manager Torie Brazitis. “We can keep up the good level of service that we’re proud to offer to Bothell, but over the long run.”
Council proposed these two new measures only after the economic recovery took hold and a 1997 voter-approved public safety bond for the police and municipal court buildings was paid off. Residents paid 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $50 per year on a $500,000 home in 2017.
“For a long time, the city did not do one percent property tax increase. We did that because there was a recession, so it was a good reason to do it,” Rheaume said at the June 19 meeting. “But now it’s time to catch up.”
The operations levy will also address citizens’ priorities, including traffic and school safety, reducing theft and property crimes, tackling drug use and homelessness and providing continued high-quality fire and emergency medical response.
“This public safety levy is so we can protect the citizens better than we are now,” said council member Tom Agnew. “Did everybody get what they wanted? Absolutely not…But I think we covered 90 percent of it here.”
Some council members who were skeptical at first ultimately gave their support to the measures.
“There is voter tax fatigue and that makes me nervous, but it’s our job to figure out the responsible thing to do,” said Deputy Mayor Davina Deurr. “The voters will hopefully be educated to make a decision on whether or not they agree with us.”
Council did parse down the measures from the original proposal and looked at renovating the fire stations, but decided that “raze and rebuild” was the way to go.
“I don’t think we want a Taj Mahal…but we want something functional. We want something that will last for the next 30 years that our folks will be proud to be in,” Agnew said.
Council member Rosemary McAuliffe said she had concerns about the location of the downtown fire station but was supporting the bond because it would add to quality of life for firefighters and enable women to work at Fire Station 45.
“[We need] co-ed facilities that will work for all firefighters,” said council member James McNeal.
See www.bothellwa.gov for more.