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$800 million levy to support kids, families headed to ballot in King County

Children and their mom walk through a park in Seattle on Feb. 26, 2018.
Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press file
Children and their mom walk through a park in Seattle on Feb. 26, 2018.

As expected, the King County Council has put a levy focused on children and families on the August primary ballot.

The Best Starts for Kids $800 million levy is a renewal of a measure first passed in 2015. It would cost the owner of a median-priced home in Seattle about $114 a year.

The council argues it’s a good bargain because it saves money in the long run by keeping kids healthy, safe and out of the criminal justice system.

King County Councilman Dave Upthegrove used the example of a program at Southcenter Mall.

“When a young person shoplifts, instead of immediately being thrown in the back of a police cruiser, they’re instead immediately paired up with a counselor, on site, who cares about them and their future,” Upthegrove explained. “And as a result, more than 200 young people, mostly youth of color, have, first, avoided a criminal record and, second, turned their lives around.”

The new six-year levy would fund a range of services aimed at helping kids from birth to young adulthood. That includes increasing access to child care, with goals to subsidize care for more than 3,000 low-income kids. Some funding will also go toward building low-income housing. 

Preventing families from becoming homeless is a goal of the levy. Proponents say since Best Starts for Kids began, it has helped reduce the number of children who are homeless.

“Best Starts for Kids has been shaped by families, community members and participating organizations actually more than the county itself,” Councilmember Joe McDermott said, calling it the most progressive piece of legislation he's worked on in his public service career. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.