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Sales tax increase headed for November ballot, local cities would get a share

Enumclaw could rake in an additional $234,000 in tax revenue by 2012 if voters approve a tax measure that will appear on November's general election ballot.

The money would come directly from shoppers' pockets, the result of an increase in the countywide sale and use tax. The nine-member Metropolitan King County Council voted July 19 to put an item on the ballot that would bump the tax upward by two-tenths of 1 percent. That equates to an additional 20 cents per $100 spent.

The revenue raised by the ballot measure would go predominately to public safety services with 60 percent of the funds earmarked for county purposes. If approved by voters, the increase would generate approximately $59 million in revenue in 2011 and $80 million in 2012, the first full year the levy would be collected. Under the proposal, the county’s portion of the proceeds would be used solely for public safety programs ranging from the sheriff and prosecutor’s office to public defense and jail health services.

The sales tax increase would remain in effect for a maximum of three years.

The tax proposal is in response to the county's continued belt-tightening.

“With public safety being the paramount concern of people in King County, voters must have a chance to weigh in about whether to cut $60 million in criminal justice services or preserve them with temporary higher taxes,” Councilman Larry Phillips said.

Enumclaw, Black Diamond and 37 other cities will receive money if the Nov. 2 measure passes. While 60 percent of the annual income from the tax hike is guaranteed to the county, the cities will split the remaining 40 percent, with that sum divided on a per-capita basis.

The tax would be imposed for nine months of 2011, with 2012 being the first full year of collections. The county estimates the 39 cities would split $32 million in 2012. Using that estimate, Enumclaw would receive $234,158 and Black Diamond would get $85,409.

While King County would be required to use the new revenue for public safety, the individual cities are under no such obligation. The ordinance passed by the county council notes, "City proceeds may be used for criminal justice purposes, fire protection purposes or other general city purposes."

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