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A week after controversial head tax passes, Seattle City Council members propose property tax increase

SEATTLE -- People who own a home in King County are paying about 17% more in property taxes this year than last year to help pay for the state’s funding of public education.

But come November, Seattle leaders will be asking voters to approve a bit more of an increase for city dwellers.

City Council members say while the state funding property tax hike pays for basic education, the levy they want to be renewed will be an extra investment to ensure that kids from preschool to high school will have what it takes to succeed.

Council members Lorena Gonzalez and Rob Johnson are sponsoring the measure, which states the council wants to lift the limit on regular property taxes in order to levy additional taxes.

“This is really an important renewal effort for voters to consider,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said in 2014 they made a commitment to voters to expand preschool.

In 2014, Seattle voters approved a $58 million levy allowing low-income kids to go to preschool for free.

Since 2015, the city says the program has allowed affordable or free preschool to 850 families.

Now the city wants to send hundreds more to preschool.

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Office is also pushing to send high school graduates to community college for free.

The city is merging two expiring levies and putting the issue on the ballot this November 6.

“So it’s just an enhancement of the property tax that people are currently paying and have been since 2011,” Gonzalez said.

The Mayor’s Office says it would amount to about $5 more per week for Seattle homeowners.

But the idea is coming at a time when many in the community are angry over last week’s passage of the controversial employee tax and what they call mismanagement of various city issues.

“It’s not just homelessness. It's the bike lanes and budget overruns, the Bertha tunnel, and the overruns on that, the First Ave streetcar and overruns on that,” Seattle resident Matt Dubin said. Dubin is a local attorney now running to become a state lawmaker this year. He says he is upset over city leaders squeezing out the middle class. “It’s making it impossible for the middle class to live in Seattle. If we keep going down this road nobody will be able to live in Seattle except for the very rich and the homeless,” Dubin said.

Q13 News asked Johnson and Gonzalez how they felt about the growing anger and mistrust in city spending that many people in the community have voiced.

“I think, I mean in this levy, as I mentioned before, we have a high level of accountability and we have shown voters over and over again that we have been delivering outcomes,” Gonzalez said.

Johnson said that community members may not be feeling the same way come November.

“It’s May; this is proposed to be on the ballot in November and a lot can change between now and November,” Johnson said.

What do you mean a lot can change?

“The angst and anger you guys are talking about today, May 21st, may not necessarily be the same as it is today in November,” Johnson said.

How are you feeling about the angst and anger, are you hearing them?

“It’s your (media) guys' words and so generally I would say I was at the farmers market this weekend in the U District, where we are every Saturday. I heard from a couple of people, folks who were proud of the vote we took last week and a couple of people who were concerned. Generally, that’s a pretty good bellwether of the community,” Johnson said.

The levy will be on the ballot November 6.