In a reversal of earlier statements, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph says she has decided against bringing back another proposition to voters this year to raise the utility tax to pay for more police officers.
Ralph stated her new position on the measure at the May 15 City Council meeting after resident Tim Brown pleaded with the mayor and council members to not send the proposition back to voters.
Voters rejected Proposition A by 57 to 43 percent on April 24. The measure would have raised utility taxes to 8 percent from 6 percent to bring in about $4.5 million per year to hire 23 more police officers.
“A decision has already been made,” Ralph told Brown after his remarks during the public comment period of the meeting. “I will not be bringing Proposition A back before the council or recommending that the council vote on it. It will not be coming back – at least this year or possibly in the future – we’ve heard the (anti-tax) message.”
Ralph had said the night the measure went down and again two days later at her State of the City address that she would recommend the council refer the tax hike to voters again later this year.
The mayor said she has talked with new Police Chief Rafael Padilla about working with a force of 157 officers rather than 180.
“One of the many conversations I’ve had with our chief of police is how do we address our service delivery model to fit within the number of officers we currently have,” Ralph said. “With no opportunity to grow the department, we have to figure out what kind of services we can provide and how we can do that realistically.”
Brown immediately responded to the mayor’s comments.
“I sincerely on behalf of the citizens of Kent, thank you for that wise decision not to bring it back and to each and every council member for not bringing it back,” he said. “We are not against good taxes and not against the police department, it was a matter of we could not bear any more taxes this year. Maybe next year we could stand behind it.”
Taxes went up in Kent because of a state property tax increase to help pay for schools, a new Sound Transit property tax, sales tax and vehicle fee as well as the council’s decision last year to raise property taxes.
Prior to Ralph’s answer, Brown stated his case against another request to raise taxes for more police officers.
“We already voted on it,” he said. “We voted it down. For you to propose to bring it back means you are disrespecting your citizens and dismissing their vote. We ask you to respect our vote and that no more tax money or city staff be used to promote Proposition A in any new form.
“It was voted down without any organized response. If it is brought up again, there will be organized response against it.”
Another resident also showed up at the council meeting to speak against Proposition A, but withdrew her time to comment after Ralph said she would not ask the council to bring the measure to voters again.