A photo of King County ballot drop box on a sunny day.
Photo by Natalie Bicknell Argerious

April 25 Ballot to Decide Operations and Construction Measures around Puget Sound.

Ballots have reached voters for the upcoming April special election, with the off-season, off-year vote focusing on funding districts and services in all corners of the region. The ballots are due April 25 by 8pm.

The useful mnemonic for the ballot measures comes from the school districts who say “bonds are for buildings, levies are for learning.” Bonds pay for capital projects like new schools and parks. Levies pay for operations, like salaries and program expenses. Only the school districts in Pierce County are asking for bonds. The rest of the votes are levies, paying for services from fire, health care, or police.

Pierce County is running four measures on its ballot this spring. DuPont is renewing a six-year, $0.50 per $1000 property tax levy for emergency medical services. University Place is asking for a property tax increase from $0.66 to $1.01 per $1000 of assessed value to fund a levy for police officers and crime prevention. The school districts in Steilacoom and Orting are both seeking to approve general obligation bonds for building construction. Steilacoom School District, currently with six schools total, is asking for $116 million to build a new elementary school, a new stadium, and other facilities. Orting School District, with four schools, is asking for $150 million to build or renovate elementary schools, expand the high school, and other improvements.

In Snohomish County, there are two items on the ballot. Both of the neighboring cities of Brier and Mountlake Terrace are seeking voter approval to annex into the South Snohomish County Fire and Rescue Regional Fire Authority. It is the service the cities currently use, but the realignment will move the agreements from a contractual relationship to a membership with representation on the district board and reduction in the fees. Without annexation, the cost of fire and EMS in both cities is set to increase.

Four items appear on King County’s ballots. Kent School District is seeking $495 million in general obligation bonds for safety, security, repair, and building technology improvements. The district has 39 schools and serves almost 26,000 students. The Vashon-Maury Island Park and Recreation District is asking to impose a $0.45 per $1000 levy to fund regular park operation and maintenance for the next four years. And the King County Hospital District No. 4 is requesting a levy of $0.70 per $1000 to fund the primary, specialty, and emergency care services at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. The hospital district covers Carnation, Fall City, and all the towns eastbound on I-90 from Preston through Snoqualmie Pass. The hospital is in downtown Snoqualmie.

If approved by voters, the April 2023 Special Election will create a behavioral health center in each of the county’s four regions, plus a fifth specializing in youth under age 19. (King County Council)

The region’s headlining ballot measure is the King County crisis care levy, a nine-year $1.25 billion proposal to organize and run five on-demand mental health and addiction facilities in the county. The measure was approved by the county council in October for addition to the ballot, and documents the increased need for emergency behavioral health services in the county. Call volumes at the health crisis line increased 20% over three years, and the number of people receiving community based behavioral health crisis response increased 146% over nine years. Currently, the county only has one facility for voluntarily behavioral health services, the nonprofit Downtown Emergency Service Center. It does not permit walk-in admission, instead requiring first responder or hospital referrals for entry.

The levy would add $0.145 per $1000 of home value to the county’s property tax bills. The funds will stand up five new facilities open 24 hours a day, seven days a week that will be able to screen and triage any person for behavioral health crisis care. Each of the four regions of the county will have one facility, and the fifth will specialize in serving people under 19 years old. The funds will also increase wages for chronically underpaid health service workers, and looks to stem the long-term reduction in mental health beds in the county. 

Ballot can be mailed without postage, but it is recommended that be done by the Friday prior to the election (April 21) to make sure they are postmarked in time. Ballot drop off locations can be found throughout Pierce, Snohomish, and King Counties. Voters can drop off their ballots to these locations by 8pm on April 25.

Article Author

Ray Dubicki is a stay-at-home dad and parent-on-call for taking care of general school and neighborhood tasks around Ballard. This lets him see how urbanism works (or doesn’t) during the hours most people are locked in their office. He is an attorney and urbanist by training, with soup-to-nuts planning experience from code enforcement to university development to writing zoning ordinances. He enjoys using PowerPoint, but only because it’s no longer a weekly obligation.