Sound Publishing file photo

Sound Publishing file photo

King County Council authorizes staff to draft road levy ballot measure

The county is projected to run out of capital funding for roads and bridges by 2025.

Voters in unincorporated King County could be asked to increase a levy lid to help fund roads amid a decline in revenues.

If approved by voters, the levy lid could be raised to $2.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is the maximum the county is allowed to collect. Currently, the collection rate is about $1.81 per $1,000 of assessed property value. In total, the levy could generate around $164 million over eight years, or some $22 million annually. While significant, it’s far less than what is needed to fully fund the county’s roads department.

“Even if we did get $22 million it would help, but it would not solve the problem,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert at an Oct. 28 meeting of the Local Services committee.

The committee directed staff to begin drafting an ordinance that could appear on the ballot during the August or November elections in 2020. Even if it passes, further funding mechanisms will have to be found.

Currently only about 11 percent of residents in the county are paying to maintain infrastructure like roads and bridges in unincorporated areas. Many areas — and their respective tax bases — already have been annexed into cities. King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci said cities would likely have to chip in to support the infrastructure in the future.

“The fix to adequate county road funding is going to be a countywide fix. There’s just no way to support the level of infrastructure need that we have entirely out of revenue from unincorporated King County,” Balducci said.

The county is projected to run out of capital funding for roads and bridges by 2025. About 80 percent of the county’s roads budget comes from property taxes from the roads levy. As the county’s tax base shrinks, property value has also risen faster than the 1 percent, which the county is allowed to raise property taxes annually.

When the county runs out of capital funding, it won’t have money for new construction and will essentially be “managing the decline,” as Lambert puts it.

Roads and bridges in unincorporated King County see an average of 1 million vehicle trips a day. Maintenance for the infrastructure is only paid for by the roughly 250,000 residents in unincorporated parts of the county. Additionally, there’s not much commercial activity outside of cities, so the county doesn’t get much sales tax.

On top of the levy, the county could ask voters to approve a taxing district, which could raise between $5 million and $10 million annually. A previous district was repealed in 2014.

However, even those wouldn’t bridge the budget gap the county is facing. To maintain and improve roads, the county needs at least an additional $250 million. If that amount isn’t found, the county could start closing rural bridges and letting roads return to gravel.

By 2040, the county predicts some 35 bridges will be either closed or have weight restrictions placed on them.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

File photo
State Supreme Court strikes down $30 car-tab initiative

Justices unanimously agreed that voter-approved Initiative 976 is unconstitutional.

A suspect in a carjacking hangs almost 60 feet up in a tree after climbing it to avoid police on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 near Mill Creek, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After gunfire, Bothell carjacking suspect climbs a tree

He allegedly passed a trooper at 114 mph on a motorcycle, crashed, stole a car, fled gunshots and climbed 60 feet.

Hilary Franz (left) and Sue Kuehl Pederson
Wildfires, forest health are key issues in race to lead DNR

Republican Sue Kuehl Pederson is challenging incumbent Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

power grid electricity power lines blackouts PG&E (Shutterstock)
State extends moratorium on some electric, gas shutoffs

Investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in WA can’t disconnect customers through April.

Cecil Lacy Jr. (Family photo)
Court: New trial in case of man who told police ‘Can’t breathe’

Cecil Lacy Jr. of Tulalip died in 2015 while in police custody.

A Sept. 10 satellite image shows smoke from U.S. wildfires blanketing the majority of the West Coast. (European Space Agency)
University of Washington professors talk climate change, U.S.-China relations

Downside for climate policy supporters is it can risk alienating moderate or right-leaning voters.

Sightseers at a Snoqualmie Falls viewpoint adjacent to the Salish Lodge & Spa on Feb. 19, 2020. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
25 COVID cases linked to Salish Lodge

Public Health is urging anyone who visited the lodge to monitor for symptoms or get tested.

The nose of the 500th 787 Dreamliner at the assembly plant in Everett on Sept. 21, 2016. (Kevin Clark / Herald, file)
Report: Boeing will end 787 Dreamliner production in Everett

Boeing declined comment on a Wall Street Journal story saying the passenger jet’s assembly will move to South Carolina.

Car hits hydrant and power pole in Bothell

Luckily there were no injuries

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Surge in consumer spending eases state budget challenges

A jump in tax collections cuts a projected $9 billion shortfall in half, acccording to new forecast.

Rendering of the completed boathouse. Courtesy photo/City of Kenmore
Kenmore project will bring public rowing to Rhododendron Park

The project will create a boathouse for both public and school district use

High speed rail and hub cities explored in Cascadia Corridor study

A new paper outlines a potential plan for the region.