Letter to the Editor: Vote Yes on Shoreline's Proposition 1

Thursday, October 20, 2022

To the Editor:

As a member of the City of Shoreline’s Financial Sustainability Advisory Committee, and a resident of Shoreline for over 46 years, I would like to correct some misinformation in circulation about Prop 1.

First and foremost, Proposition 1 helps pay for all city services. It pays for police, for staff in our recreation and senior centers, and for maintaining parks and roads. It would not fund acquisition of land or buildings.

Those urging a no vote claim the city can ride out the next two years and live off its current meager budget surplus. That is folly. Our Advisory Committee learned about anticipated increases for union contracts with police, the rapid rise in the cost of materials to repair our roads, and the need to hire more staff to handle a near doubling in building and permit applications. Voting “no” will inevitably result in cutting back basic city services. Voting “yes” allows Shoreline to keep up with rapid inflation.

A city survey asked residents where to focus efforts and how to prioritize funds. Overwhelmingly, Shoreline residents responded: do more about homelessness and public safety.

Proposition 1 funds expansion of the RADAR program which pairs mental health professionals with our public safety officers to respond to people in distress, inebriated, or who need a referral to social services.

When our Advisory Committee was asked if the city should increase the levy lid, expanding RADAR was the only program we all agreed should grow. The modest cost on the median home value in Shoreline from Proposition 1 - $30 per month – is a needed investment in our quality of life.

I urge Shoreline residents not to be misled by misinformation. Vote yes to keep Shoreline one of the best places to live in this region.

John Thielke


Jeff October 21, 2022 at 8:41 AM  

John, you claim to be correcting "misinformation", but you do not reference any specific statements. Can you be more specific as to which facts that have been circulating are incorrect?

The pro-prop-1 statements I have seen are full of truisms like "property taxes pay for police and other services", which, while true, do not really help when considering whether a proposed large tax increase is necessary, warranted, or fair. Prop 1 is proposing a more than 48% increase in the City's general property tax levy in 2023. The City predicts that Prop 1 will generate large surpluses over its six-year lifetime, and yet has been very vague about what their plans are for that surplus.

The City has released the first draft of its proposed budget for the 2023-2024 biennium. It includes increased funding for a number of programs, including the much-touted RADAR 24/7 Mobile Crisis Response Team.
The budget assumes that Proposition 1 does not pass, and yet, it is, essentially, balanced (projected expenses equal to projected revenue) over the 2023-2024 biennium.

Going into the current biennium (2021-2022) the City was expecting a significant shortfall in revenue. Thankfully, no such shortfall came to pass. The latest financial report from the City predicts an $8 million surplus (revenue exceeding expenses by $8 million) for the general fund for the biennium. The City predicts the general fund balance (what's in the bank account) at the start of 2023 will be $30 million — that's hardly "meager". Nevertheless, the proposed budget proves the City **can** ride out the next two years, **without** even having to dip in to reserves from past surpluses.

Proposition 1 is not about the RADAR program. Yes, it is a truism that "Prop 1 funds expansion of the RADAR program": Prop 1 increases the City's general Levy, which goes to the City's general fund which is used to pay for the bulk of the City's operations. But that statement, without some accompanying numbers and context, is not particularly meaningful or helpful when deciding how much of a tax increase is fair or warranted. The City’s proposed budget shows that it plans to and has the ability to pay for RADAR's MCRT with or without the passage Prop 1. For perspective the cost to the City for the RADAR MCRT program is around $400 thousand per year. Prop 1 raises the general levy by more than $7 million per year — that's the price of 18 RADAR programs!

Proposition 1 generate large surpluses. The City not said what their plans are for how to spend that extra money. The City Manager, when introducing the proposed budget to City Council at the October 10 City council meeting suggested the following uses for any new surplus: more staff (IT & HR) for City Hall, and transfers to various capital funds ("sidewalk, transportation, and park priorities") [Note that we recently passed a parks Bond for which we will begin paying in 2023. We've voted for a sales tax levy (and the City has imposed a car tab fee) to pay for sidewalks. Some of our gas tax and car tab fees go to the City to cover transportation and roads.]

For more details (and references) on all of this, see https://www.shorelinelevy.info/rebuttal-to-the-explanatory-statement/
as well as other pages on the shorelinelevy.info website.

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