Kirkland Council to hold public hearings on $5.3 million streets, parks measures
By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
July 13, 2012 · Updated 12:15 PM
The Kirkland City Council will hold public hearings on two proposed ballot measures, one for parks and one for roads, that could raise property tax revenue a combined $5.3 million. The hearings will take place during the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday at Kirkland City Hall.
The city has battled tough budget issues during the past five years with sales-tax revenue dropping from $16 million annually to $12 million. The levies are meant to bring in revenue to help areas of city maintenance that have been hurt by the economic downturn and seen as important by public surveys.
If both measures are placed on the November ballot and passed by voters, they will cost the average property owner 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed value each year, or $127.04 for a home at the median Kirkland value of $349,000. Both measures are being considered but would be placed on the ballot separately.
The street improvement and pedestrian safety levy would provide funding to repair potholes, repave and enhance arterials and neighborhood streets. It would also provide safe walking and biking routes to schools, and improve pedestrian and driver safety on neighborhood streets.
Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett told the attendees at the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday that a recent survey by the city showed 68 percent support for a tax to improve road conditions.
Road conditions are rated on a scale of 0-100 Pavement Condition Index (PCI) with an 85 PCI being optimal. The overall PCI of Kirkland roads is at 66, with arterials at a 59 PCI. The levy is projected to improve the arterials to a 76 PCI. The city has an existing back log at $39 million of work.
“The challenge with roads and streets is that if you don’t do it now you will pay more to fix the problem later,” said Triplett.
Triplett said that the levy would help to fix over 90-lane miles in Kirkland or over half the major arterials. The levy would also allow the city to perform preventative maintenance on 650-lane miles of local and neighborhood streets.
“This will touch every single area in Kirkland,” said Triplett.
The city has changed course when it comes to paying for road maintenance. City officials briefly took up the idea of a Transportation Benefit District, or car-tab tax. But the issue became a lightning rod, drawing opposition from Kirkland residents and even Mukilteo resident Tim Eyman to a public hearing to speak against the idea.
The property tax would also pay for more sidewalks and safe walk routes in the city. Kirkland was the first city in the state to implement a Complete Street Ordinance in an attempt to make all modes of transportation safe.
Prior to annexation, 25 percent of Kirkland roads did not have sidewalks and the levy would help to construct more in all areas of the city. The city has also targeted many areas where crosswalks are needed or that need improvements to current crosswalks. Levy funds would allow the city to re-stripe an estimated 230 crosswalks and upgrade 50 current crosswalks.
The proposed streets levy would add 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for a property owner. It would generate an estimated $3 million annually. The estimated annual cost is $71.20 at the median home value for Kirkland.
The parks levy would cost voters less but also goes towards a quality of life for Kirkland residents, said Triplett. Citizens came forward to the council last summer to request a parks ballot measure.
Property owners would see a tax increase of 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value and would annually generate an estimated $2.345 million. The estimated annual cost is $55.84 at the median home value for Kirkland.
The parks levy would help in the maintenance of local parks, including the new Cross Kirkland Trail, allow the city to take over O.O. Denny Park on Finn Hill, restore lifeguards to local beach parks, such as Juanita Beach Park and Houghton Beach Park, and supply forest and habitat restoration.
The levy would help the city to move forward with the Cross Kirkland Trail Master Plan. The trail is to be built on a 5 mile stretch of land that used to be owned by the BNSF rail line. Triplett said that the project is projected to receive as much as $3 million in state and federal funds for the renovation.
Big Finn Hill Park and Juanita Woodlands are still run by King County and would not see any benefits.All other parks in the new neighborhoods are run by the city. Officials point out that most residents do not just use the parks in their neighborhoods.
O.O. Denny Park is owned by the City of Seattle but maintained by the Finn Hill Park and Recreation District, which has taxing authority over some residents on Finn Hill. The levy would allow the city to take over the maintenance of the park.
The current taxing authority for the Park and Recreation District expires in 2014. District officials have not decided if it would disband immediately if the levy passes or wait until 2014 and use those funds to make improvements.
The council also authorized the recruitment for members to serve on the “pro” and “con” committees who will be tasked to write statements in support and in opposition of the proposed ballot measures to be included in the voter’s pamphlet.
The hearings will be held during the regular council meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber, Kirkland City Hall, 123 5th Ave.
Contact Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.