‘Best Starts for Kids’ levy on fall ballot

By Rebecca Gourley


King County voters will decide whether to add an average of $4 per month in property taxes to their bill this fall.

The King County Council voted 8-1 in favor of putting King County Executive Dow Constantine’s “Best Starts for Kids” initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot. District 9 Councilman Reagan Dunn was the dissenting vote.

Dunn said he voted against putting the measure on the ballot because he is concerned about junior taxing districts.

He said the county’s tax levy would supersede several fire, hospital and park districts throughout King County, which would potentially cause those districts to lose some of their revenue stream. The effect would be even greater if, over the life of the new levy, an economic stagnation occurs, Dunn added.

The proposed levy would be for six years and is aimed at funding early intervention programs and early childhood development for kids in King County, according to a release from Constantine.

A county release also stated the levy would generate approximately $58.3 million in 2016. About 50 percent of those funds would go toward early childhood development programs for children up to age 5. About 35 percent would go to programs that assist kids and adults ages 6 through 24, 10 percent to community programs that “improve health, social and economic outcomes,” and 5 percent would be used for “evaluation, data collection and program improvement.”

Constantine stressed the importance of investing in kids’ health early on to prevent future problems.

“We have the means, the shared commitment and now the opportunity to put every child in King County on a path toward lifelong success,” he said. “Thanks to (the) action by council members, voters will have the option to invest earlier in the development of our children and youth, when we have the greatest chance to help them reach their full potential.”

According to a University of Washington study published in April of this year, there is a “causal” link between early home environments and kids’ stress response systems.

In an article published the same day of the study, UWToday writer Deborah Bach summarized the results of the research and stated early intervention methods can help mitigate children’s responses to stress later in life, “but only if that happens before age 2.”

The lead author in the study, Katie McLaughlin, is a UW assistant professor of psychology.

She is quoted in Bach’s article stating, “The early environment has a very strong impact on how the stress response system in the body develops…. But even kids exposed to a very extreme negative environment who are placed into a supportive family can overcome those effects in the long term.”

The levy would be at a rate of 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Contact Rebecca Gourley by emailing her at rgourley@covingtonreporter.com