The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission Tuesday agreed with opponents of a proposed Seattle Parks District that the wording submitted for the city voter’s guide wasn’t adequate. The commission voted 5-0 to add language that gives the maximum property tax that can be levied and notes that a new parks district can levy taxes above the current limits that state law imposes on Seattle.
“This is a real victory for us,” said John Fox, director of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, which advocates for low-income housing and affordability in the city. “Voters have a much better idea of what it’s going to cost them and that once it’s created and the taxing authority given to the [parks district], it is irrevocable.”
The coalition, joined by the Seattle Community Council Federation and attorney Toby Thaler, challenged the voter’s guide summary prepared for the August primary by the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
The City Council in April approved sending to voters a measure that would create a new, permanent Seattle Parks District to provide additional funding to the city parks system. Under the proposal, the new district would be governed by the City Council sitting as an independent board. Once created, only the board or state law could dissolve the district, not city voters.
The community groups argued that the voter’s guide summary didn’t adequately explain the tax liability or the permanence of creating a new taxing district. The parks district could impose new taxes up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, but the City Council has recommended that the initial tax be 33 cents per $1,00o or $145 per year for a $440,000 value.
Last week, a King County judge also agreed with the opponents and added to the ballot title for the measure the maximum tax amount as well as a reference to state law that outlines the powers of a parks district.