Snohomish County voters will see a 0.2 percent sales tax increase on the Aug. 2 ballot to help the county fund public safety and health programs, including those that target the county’s heroin epidemic.
The City of Mountlake Terrace currently has a 9.8 percent sales tax after a 0.3 percent sales tax increase to fund Community Transit went into effect last month, pushing the sales tax rate higher than the 9.6 percent collected in Seattle. The city will also put a $0.44 levy lid lift on the Aug. 2 ballot to help the city pay rent for the Interim City Hall and parks maintenance.
The sales tax increase to appear on the August ballot is expected to generate over $25 million per year and would fund additional sheriff’s deputies, alternatives to jail time and embedded social workers to target and help improve drug use in the county.
Several city and public health officials spoke at a public hearing on Monday morning in support of the measure.
“The drug epidemic that is pounding our communities, destroying lives, destroying families and impacting neighborhoods throughout the county, throughout the state and throughout the nation is not easily dealt with,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said. “It’s essential that we defend our communities from this onslaught and the resources that this will provide will go some ways in allowing us all to do that.”
Nehring also said local drug issues also drive property crimes throughout the region.
Director of the Snohomish Health District Gary Goldbaum hopes the measure goes even farther in the future.
“I commend what the sheriff and his colleagues are doing to fight the growing heroin epidemic,” Goldbaum said. “I also believe that public health plays a vital role in creating a holistic solution to the heroin epidemic in Snohomish County. My hope is we have at least started a conversation for the county council to either enable this ordinance or some other county funding source to support the important public health work we do every day.”
Two residents spoke against the measure.
“I would urge you guys to think very carefully before you stick to us yet another sales tax increase which will come out of our pockets to fund public safety and health,” Arlington resident Margi Abbott said.
The measure passed with a 4-1 vote. The only dissenting vote came from County Councilman Ken Klein, who wants to see a full plan for how the funds will be used.
–By Natalie Covate