My father, uncles and grandfathers were veterans. Through them, I learned about the Normandy invasion, the sinking of the Quincy and Patton’s army. Their stories made my high school history books come alive. Many King County families have similar connections and understand that veterans deserve our support.
Veterans Day is a good opportunity to reflect on their sacrifices. However, newspapers are filled with stories of the challenges facing many of our veterans when they return home, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, unemployment and substance abuse. Given these challenges, it is also appropriate to review how your investment through the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy is helping our veterans when they return home.
In recent years, federal funding has failed to provide adequate veterans services in a time of increasing conflicts abroad. In 2005, I proposed asking King County voters to decide if they wanted to invest in increased veterans services. I worked with citizens and elected officials, particularly Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis, Enumclaw Mayor John Wise and Newcastle City Councilmember Sonny Putter, and the King County Council eventually voted 12-1 to place a veterans levy on the ballot. In November 2005, King County residents overwhelmingly passed the Veterans and Human Services Levy by nearly 60 percent of the vote.
The six-year levy taxes King County property at a rate of five cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The annual cost for a $400,000 home is $20. The levy generates approximately $13.3 million annually, and will be in effect through 2011.
Your investment is being used wisely. Levy funds help veterans and their families by:
Increasing permanent housing with supportive services for veterans, such as McDermott Place in North Seattle and Renton Regional Veterans Housing. These projects leveraged levy funding with other sources.
Opening a new veterans services office in Renton to provide veterans with a range of employment and training programs in South King County.
Expanding the geographic range of King County Veterans Program services and increasing access to basic services like food, transportation, and utilities.
Expanding the nationally recognized King County Jail Initiatives Project to assist veterans in regional jails, by securing employment and stable housing after they are released from jail. The average annual recidivism rate for veterans in this program is 17 percent – two-thirds less than the general recidivism rate in King County of 58 percent.
These are just a few examples of how your tax dollars are being invested. You can be proud that you are doing your part to assist those veterans who have served our country with distinction.
Bob Ferguson represents District 1 on the King County Council. You can contact him at email@example.com. You can learn more about the Veterans and Human Services Levy at www.kingcounty.gov/ferguson.