Kent group persists in effort to bring tax relief to seniors

Dale Brantner’s property tax statement from King County epitomized the Kent man’s frustration.

About half of his $5,585.90 tax bill this year supports schools.

His family raised, Brantner is 76, retired, and has little vested interest in public education. He no longer feels obligated to approve the next school bond or initiative that appears on the ballot.

Brantner is not alone. Fellow seniors are struggling to live in their homes and maintain what they preciously own on modest means as the cost of living in the county continues to rise.

Keeping up with higher property taxes tied to higher assessed valuations has become a difficult, day-to-day challenge for those vulnerable and on fixed incomes.

Seniors have grown tired and skeptical when asked to support a parade of school and county project measures.

Brantner and his friends say they have had enough. They formed Kent Seniors United earlier this year – a grassroots effort to bring awareness, build a voice and persuade city leaders to bring some kind of property tax relief.

“Nobody’s saying seniors don’t want to pay taxes,” Brantner said at a group meeting Monday afternoon. “But we’ve paid our dues … we played by the rules. … Why should we pay for school levies and bonds when we don’t have kids in school?”

It’s been a slow go, but the group – about 50 strong – have reached out to gradually gain signatures on a petition drive that ultimately will ask the city to freeze property taxes on senior homeowners.

So far, the petition drive has generated 800 signatures, 200 shy of the campaign goal, with solicitations ending Friday, Brantner said.

Enough signatures in hand, Brantner plans to meet individually with City Council members next week. The hope is to eventually submit a petition to the city.

Taxes have gone up for Kent homeowners. The City Council increased property taxes last year beyond the 1 percent limit by using banked property tax capacity. The state raised property taxes this year to help pay for schools. Sound Transit began a property tax after voters approved a ST3 measure in 2016 to expand mass transit. Voters also approved two Kent School District measures earlier this year.

If Kent Seniors United can somehow earn a compromise from the city on tax relief, the next step is to approach county leaders. City support would represent a significant start, the group said.

“King County is a 100-pound gorilla, and we don’t have the money or the political structure right now to even think about the county right now,” Brantner said.

Trying to organize, engage and generate support from a mostly uninformed, apathetic senior community has been daunting, the group said.

“Senior citizens feel they don’t want to fight anymore or get involved,” Brantner said. “They feel nothing is going to change.

“Nobody but nobody represents us,” he added. “We don’t have a voice … but we want to represent senior citizens.”

Members of the group emphasized they are willing to pay their fair share of taxes, but only those that are reasonable for basic services.

“We just want to be able to survive so that we can pay taxes,” said Bill, a retired Boeing worker who didn’t want to give his full name. “We want to get this moving so we can help those (senior-to-be homeowners) who will be in our position. We’re trying to help them right now.”

The group meets again at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 26 at Golden Steer Steak ‘n Rib House, 23826 104th Ave. SE, Kent

For more information, go to the Kent Seniors United Facebook page.

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