There will be a special election on April 24, 2018 on Proposition A, a police and criminal justice ballot measure, to authorize the City to raise the existing 6 percent utility tax on electricity, manufactured and natural gas, telephone and cable TV services by 2 percent for a total utility tax of 8 percent. State law requires that voters must approve any utility tax on most of these companies that exceeds 6 percent.
The purpose of this utility tax increase is to add staffing and provide equipment for police and criminal justice services in Kent. The funding will provide for 23 commissioned police officers (21 patrol officers and two sergeants), two police corrections officers, two police records specialists, one prosecuting attorney and one paralegal, one public defender, one judicial specialist and one probation officer.
Frequently Asked Questions
If Proposition A passes, which utilities will be taxed?
- Manufactured and natural gas
- Telephone – land lines and cell phones; for cell phones, only the phone portion will be taxed, not the data
- Cable TV services – only cable TV services, not Internet service provided through cable carriers, nor satellite TV.
How much money will be raised with a 2 percent utility tax increase?
An estimated $4.8 million will be raised annually.
How much will my taxes increase?
The average Kent household will see an increase of about $11 per month.
Will this affect only homeowners?
No, this is not a property tax. It is a utility tax increase that will affect homeowners, renters and business owners. The increased utility tax will apply to anyone in the City of Kent that pays utility taxes on electricity, manufactured and natural gas, land and cell phone lines and cable TV services.
How can I be sure this utility tax increase will go to pay for police and criminal justice services?
All funds received from the 2 percent increase in utility tax revenues will be segregated from other funds of the City and accounted for separately. The funds will be used exclusively to pay for the addition of staff and police vehicles for the new staff.
Why did the Kent City Council send Proposition A to the voters for consideration?
Kent has experienced dramatic growth in recent years. The City now encompasses approximately 35 square miles in area, including the 2010 annexation of the Panther Lake area. With this annexation, Kent added approximately 25,000 residents, but the City has not added a proportionate number of police officers to serve that area. The rest of the City has grown beyond those additional residents, too.
A number of factors have made it difficult to fund these services. For example, the state limits property tax levy growth to 1 percent per year, which is usually 1 or 2 percent below the inflation rate, causing a new budget shortfall every year. Also, according to the latest study, Washington’s Streamlined Sales Tax legislation has cost the City approximately $12.7 million per year.
Of all City services, police and criminal justice services are critical to its residents. The City strives to maintain its level of delivery of these services, but staffing levels are challenged as the City grapples with its recent growth.
Police officers are working more overtime hours, and more officers are needed to properly staff the police department shifts. Adding more than 20 commissioned police officers would improve the City's ability to deliver public safety services. The additional police officers would bring the City's level of police service to a level comparable to other Puget Sound police departments.
Police officers are a significant part of the City’s public safety network, but adding additional officers will also impact service and staffing levels in police support services, the City’s municipal court, its municipal jail, its prosecution division and its public defender office. As a result, if Proposition A passes and this additional funding becomes available, part of that funding will also be dedicated to these other critical branches of the City’s police and criminal justice network.
How many officers per 1,000 residents does the Kent Police Department have?
We currently have 1.08 officers per 1,000 residents. If we hired 23 more officers, we’d be in the middle of these area cities.
How much did the City of Kent pay in overtime for police officers last year?
In 2017, the City of Kent paid over $2 million in overtime to cover street staffing and respond to violent crimes. The hourly rate of an officer working overtime is one-and-a-half times as much as an officer working regular time. Thus, it is more expensive to pay an officer overtime in comparison to employing an additional officer at regular pay.
Is crime really worse in Kent?
Since instituting intelligence-led policing in 2006, crime in Kent has dropped dramatically in some categories, but it is rising in other categories.
When is the election?
A special election will take place on April 24, 2018.
When will be ballots will be mailed?
Ballots will be mailed on April 4, 2018. Voter guides should be mailed at the same time as the ballots.
Where, how and when can I return my completed, signed ballot?
Ballot drop boxes will be opened on April 5, 2018. You can drop off your ballot at an official ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on April 24, 2018, or mail it via U.S. postal mail. If you mail your ballot, be sure to use a first-class stamp. Your ballot must be postmarked no later than April 24, 2018.
Kent has two ballot drop box locations: Kentridge High School (12430 SE 208th St., Kent, WA 98031) and Regional Justice Center, near the parking garage entrance (401 Fourth Avenue North, Kent, WA 98032). Find more ballot drop box locations at KingCounty.gov.
How can I register to vote?
You can register to vote online, by mail or in person. Visit KingCounty.gov or call 206-296-VOTE for more information, including deadlines. You can also check your register, change your address, or cancel your registration online at KingCounty.gov.
How can I learn more or ask questions?
You can contact Chief Ken Thomas through his assistant Jalene King, jking@KentWA.gov or 253-856-5890.
[Last updated 3/15/18, 1:22 p.m.]