Alright friends, crack open your bespoke seltzer, or your gas station Zipfizz, or whatever mild stimulant you need to get yourself pumped to read an arcane discussion of a complex property tax levy, because the following endorsement is pretty dry but extremely important. In fact, voting to approve the Best Starts for Kids levy might be the most important bubble on this ballot.
When people talk about the need to make investments “upstream” to solve chronic issues such as homelessness, gun violence, and opportunity gaps in schools, they’re talking about funding stuff like the Best Starts for Kids levy.
The levy raises hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on programs that support poor kids at every stage of their development to prevent them from becoming goofy-ass little hellions.
When we first endorsed this levy back in 2015, all the science told us that making these kinds of investments upfront would reduce the need for more costly “interventions” later on, such as permanent supportive housing, cops, jails, and so on. Lo and behold, it’s only been six years and the county says it is already seeing major improvements.
Just to name a few: The Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative prevented 9,200 families from entering homelessness, according to a county analysis. (The entire homeless population in King County hovers at around 12,000 people, though that’s likely an undercount.) The levy also put food on tables, diapers on butts, clothes on backs, and car seats in cars for “89,000 children and families” across the county over the course of the last three years.
Do you want us to go on? We can!! Levy funds built school-based health centers that kids visited “over 16,000” times, and 75% of those visitors “passed all their classes.” Levy money also paid to train over 8,000 “people who work with King County’s youth and young adults.”
Funding all these programs doesn’t just help the families who need the services, it also creates jobs all over the county. Dila Perera, executive director of Open Arms Perinatal Services, told us the money helped her hire more people in BIPOC neighborhoods to serve their mostly BIPOC clients. “That’s the sign of a good safety net,” Perera said. “You can really see how many leaders of color emerge from these programs.”
In addition to maintaining funding for these essential programs, the renewal and expansion of this levy would subsidize the cost of 3,000 childcare spots, directly helping families and adding even more jobs. That investment wouldn’t fully cover the current need, which stands at around 10,000 childcare spots, but if the county can leverage state and federal funds then we can fill that yawning gap so parents can get back to working the ten jobs they need to live in this capitalist economy that’s clearly working just fine.
This new iteration of the levy will cost 19 cents for every $1,000 of assessed home value, and it will raise around $873 million for all this stuff over the next six years. For a homeowner sitting pretty in a $600,000 house the tax bill for this proposal would run about $114 per year. That’s $9.50 per month to thread the county’s safety net with titanium steel (we have no idea how nets work) and to build a bunch of guardrails to prevent people from falling into that net in the first place. That’s less than the standard Netflix plan! Less than HBO Max!!
And for all you supposedly “tax fatigued,” house-rich/cash-poor types: do yourself a favor and see if you qualify for a low-income, senior, veteran, or disability property tax exemption. A while back the county gave the assessor more money to process claims faster, so you should get it in a jiffy.