King County Council to consider funding proposal for juvenile justice facility

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sales tax proposal to fund dilapidated Youth Services Center

The Youth Services Center, where over 5,500 juvenile, runaway, child abuse and neglect cases are heard annually, is in serious disrepair. The cost of maintaining the building has become untenable, requiring more than $20 million to repair basic electrical, plumbing and heating problems within the facility. Even if repaired, the undersized facility is not suitable to meet today’s juvenile court needs.

In order to ensure the continued administration of justice services for King County youth and families, legislation was introduced today to address the replacement needs of the 40-year-old facility.
“Delaying the replacement of the youth services facility is not an acceptable option,” said King County Council Chair Bob Ferguson, a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation. “The facility is failing and we must act now to serve the juvenile justice needs in King County.”
“The existing Juvenile Court facility is obsolete, cannot be cost-effectively fixed and urgently needs to be replaced. Councilmembers Ferguson and Gossett’s proposal to use 1/10 of a percent of sales tax increase to fund this critically needed new facility is responsible and fiscally prudent,” said Superior Court Presiding Judge Bruce Hilyer. “The building will be paid off in 5-6 years, minimizing future debt service costs to County taxpayers.”
If the proposed legislation is approved by the County Council, a ballot measure will be sent to the voters asking them to authorize a one-tenth of one percent sales tax increase (one penny on a $10 purchase) to fund the capital and financing costs for replacement of the Youth Services Center. The funds would also assist in paying for the on-going operations at the facility.

If approved by voters, the increase would generate approximately $24 million in revenue for the Youth Services Center in 2011. An additional $16 million in revenue from the levy would be allocated to the 39 cities within King County based on their population. State law requires that cities must spend one-third of the proceeds on criminal justice services.

The Youth Services Center, located near downtown Seattle, is comprised of three buildings and provides juvenile justice services in King County, including the hearing of juvenile, runaway, and child abuse and neglect cases, juvenile detention and rehabilitation, and family support for those navigating the legal system.

The maintenance needs of the facility are costly and numerous:
  • Hot water has been shut off to lower floors due to significant leakage.
  • Cold water lines produce brown water
  • Drainage problems persist with water seeping through exterior walls.
  • Sewer gases at times permeate the lower levels due to plumbing problems.
  • Additionally, the current space at the facility has created safety, privacy and other concerns:
  • The facility is not equipped to address safety concerns arising from cases involving families and children – these highly emotional cases statistically pose the greatest threat for violence of all court case types.
  • Courtrooms and waiting areas are undersized and crowded, resulting in a noisy, hectic, confusing, and stressful environment.
  • Lack of space for attorneys and caseworkers to meet with clients, forcing families to discuss sensitive matters in public hallways.
  • No on-site childcare, resulting in children being exposed to high conflict and inappropriate courtroom scenes.
The Council has until July 26 to decide whether to place the proposal on the November 2 general election ballot.


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