Parks and trails in King County will likely get an extra boost starting in 2020 with the renewal of King County Parks levy, which provides support for not just parks, but trails and other green space. Early ballot returns showed 67.25 percent approval for the levy, and the county estimates that just under 60 percent of ballots have been counted—making final approval extremely likely.
The levy will raise an estimated $738 million over the next six years through a property tax. It’s a continuation of the previous parks levy, which was approved in 2013 and expires this year, although it would increase the previous rate by about 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value. The county estimates the owner of a $500,000 home would pay about $2 extra per month compared to the previous levy, which makes up about 80 percent of King County Parks funding.
The renewed levy was announced by King County Executive Dow Constantine back in February. The final version and spending plan was approved by the county council in April. About $60 million would go toward supporting local parks and recreation, plus $35 million in grants for cities to acquire new open space.
Some of the big, specific investments go toward Seattle institutions: The Seattle Aquarium could get up to $8 million toward its massive new Ocean Pavilion building. Woodland Park Zoo, which has been supported by the last two levies, has an estimated $36 million allocated in the spending plan for maintenance and educational programs this time around; that funding is earmarked for education with an emphasis on traditionally underserved communities, building and horticultural maintenance, conservation of threatened species, and mitigating impacts to animals from climate change.
King County Parks also oversees 175 miles of regional trails. The county intends to use some of the funding for maintenance and expansion of the trails, plus improved connections and trailheads.
Property taxes remain one of the least regressive revenue options available in Washington State, thanks to a lack of income or capital gains tax statewide. A recent court challenge out of Seattle opened the door for an appeal of the state’s ban on local governments implementing their own income taxes.
Election results will trickle in over the coming weeks as later ballots are counted. Results will be certified August 20.