A grassroots movement to freeze city of Kent property taxes for senior citizens is gaining momentum.
Thirty-two people showed up at an initial meeting Sunday at the Golden Steer Steak ‘n Rib House on the East Hill. The group, which calls itself Kent Seniors United, plans to start a petition drive to gather support.
“If 100 people sign a petition, any governmental body is going to brush them off,” said Dale Brantner, a Kent resident who organized the gathering, during a Monday interview. “A couple of thousand of people sign a petition, we’ve got their attention.”
The group set up a Facebook page with the name of Kent Seniors United, where people can get more information. The organization plans to set up tables outside stores to collect signatures.
Here’s what the proposed petition says:
“High punishing property taxes are affecting retired fixed income senior homeowners to the extent that some are being forced to sell their homes to economically survive. Therefore, the below signees petition to the city of Kent to freeze all city property taxes at the applicable tax rate at age 65. In the event there is a reduction on property taxes, the reduced tax rate shall become the new cap.”
Brantner, 76, who used to run an insurance agency in Renton, said once the group knows how much support it has, it will approach the City Council with the petition. No income restrictions have been set yet, but he said that is something that can be negotiated with city officials.
“I read every (Kent Reporter) letter to the editor you guys print and I saw too many in there that said enough is enough,” Brantner said about the reasons he took on the drive to freeze property taxes. “Nobody (any political entity) listens to just one person. If you are going to take on the politicians, you better have a small army behind you.”
The turnout of 32 people at the initial meeting despite short notice and an incorrect RSVP phone number that ran in the paper, impressed Brantner, who also has written letters to the editor.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I didn’t know if there was going to be five or 50, so I was pleasantly surprised.”
Kent Seniors United will have a second meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 19 at the Golden Steer, 23826 104th Ave. SE. Everyone is welcome to attend, Brantner said.
The Kent City Council increased property taxes last year beyond the 1 percent limit by using banked property tax capacity. In addition to the city, Kent taxpayers saw increases after the state raised property taxes this year to help pay for schools and 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.
“I’m thinking if we get this off the ground and get it running, it could spread like wildfire,” said Brantner, a 53-year Kent resident. “The thing that surprised me to some degree is the number one consensus of everybody in the room (at the Sunday meeting) was that seniors have been thrown under the bus. There are people out there that are upset.”