Kent City Council to consider asking voters for more funds to hire police officers | Update

Measure could be on Nov. 5 ballot; voters rejected proposition in 2018

Kent voters could be asked in November to approve a hike in property taxes to hire more police officers.

“We’re looking at a property tax levy lid lift this time, not a utility tax,” city Chief Administrative Officer Derek Matheson said in an email Monday. “A levy lid lift requires voter approval and allows a taxing district to exceed the 1 percent limit on annual property tax collections for a period up to six years.”

The City Council will have a special workshop at 5 p.m. Monday, July 15, at City Hall to discuss Mayor Dana Ralph’s proposal to the Nov. 5 ballot. Voters rejected in April 2018 by 57 to 43 percent a hike in utility taxes to 8 percent from 6 percent.

“We’ll share more information at next week’s workshop,” Matheson said.

Matheson told the council last month that Ralph wanted it to consider another police measure at a special workshop.

“During her State of the City address earlier this year, the mayor committed to pursue a rerun of Proposition A, which would provide for adequate staffing of the police department to serve our population,” Matheson said.

If the council after discussion on July 15 decides it wants to go forward with the measure, it will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 30, to vote on getting the proposition on the November ballot in order to meet the King County Elections deadline of Aug. 6.

Residents can attend council workshops, but typically the council doesn’t allow public comment during a work session.

The measure in 2018 would have raised utility taxes to 8 percent from 6 percent to bring in about $4.5 million a year to hire 23 more officers. The city levies a fee on electric, natural gas, cable and phone bills.

After the measure failed, Ralph and the council included the addition of three more officers each year in the 2019-2020 operating budget.

“But it’s simply not enough,” Ralph said at her State of the City address in March about the three additional officers per year. “Our officers are still doing more with less. They’re protecting our neighborhoods, our businesses, all of us as we go about our business. They are being asked to go out there every single day, and there’s not enough of them. We are growing faster than our police department is.”

The mayor said during her speech she favored going back at “some point” to voters to approve more money for the department to get the force up to 180 officers.

Ralph initially said right after the 2018 measure failed that she would bring it back to voters. She changed her opinion in May 2018, as stated in her response to resident Tim Brown, who spoke against putting the measure back on the ballot during the public comment period of a council meeting.

“I will not be bringing Proposition A back before the council or recommending that the council vote on it,” Ralph said at the May 15, 2018 meeting. “It will not be coming back – at least this year or possibly in the future – we’ve heard the (anti-tax) message.”

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