Frequently Asked Questions About Prop 1
Why am I just now hearing about Prop 1—after it was placed on the ballot?
- The City Council has been discussing this funding proposal since at least mid April 2021.
- In late May 2021, the City hired a public relations firm for $40,000 to organize and run a campaign to “inform” the public about a levy lift proposal.
- On June 29 and 30, two public zoom meetings were held, titled “Parks and Pedestrian Connections / A Community Discussion.” No mention was made of a proposed massive tax increase. As a result, these meetings were very sparsely attended.
- Eight days later on July 8, Prop 1 was formally presented to the City Council as Resolution 1810.
- Two weeks later, at the next Council meeting on July 22, the proposition wording was finalized, the amount of $2,000,000 per year was decided upon, and the City Council voted to place it on the ballot.
Is it true, as one council member states, that it has been "more than 20 years since LFP proposed a levy lift increase?”
- This is false. The last levy lift attempt in Lake Forest Park was 11 years ago. The amount proposed, while very large, was not even as excessive as the current Prop 1.
- The proposed levy lift 11 years ago was also not permanent. It had a 6-year term. The current Prop 1 proposed levy lift never ends.
- The last levy lift 11 years ago was soundly defeated by a vote of 70% against.
Did the City Council consider public input when they were structuring Prop 1's funding proposal?
- Not Really. Although the Council did collect public input primarily in 2017 and 2018 (with many dollars spent on consultants), most of it was directed toward determining what improvements our citizens would like to have, not how they would be funded.
- The Council gathered virtually no input on what the true priorities of the community were, nor how much they were willing to pay for the various improvements they would like to have.
- The Council collected no meaningful input as to the structure of the Prop 1 funding proposal, held no public hearings about funding options, and apparently disregarded the minimal input that was offered.
I read that a council member stated “Nearby cities have raised their property taxes beyond our rates.” Is that true? Are we the lowest in the area?
- No, we are roughly in the middle of the pack with our neighbors. Lynnwood, Brier, and Woodinville are lower, while Kenmore, Mountlake Terrace, and Shoreline are higher.
- Some neighboring cities have higher taxes due to levy lifts, but many of theirs are for specific, defined projects, and ALL have time limits versus a permanent structure.
- Should Prop 1 pass, Lake Forest Park would have the second highest tax rate, above all our neighbors except Bothell.
I live in an apartment and don't pay property taxes. Will Prop 1 affect me?
- Yes. Landlords must still pay property taxes on your apartment building. In order to afford such a massive tax increase, they'll eventually need to raise your rent accordingly.
- Business owners also pay property taxes, and will likewise need to raise the prices of products and services in order to pay their portion of this huge increase.
Were there any public hearings on Prop 1?
- No. The draft of Prop 1 was presented to the City Council on July 8, 2021. Two weeks later, at the next Council Meeting on July 22, the Council finalized the language and passed Resolution 1810 to put Prop 1 on the November 2021 ballot.
- Technically, because this was a resolution, the Council was not required to have a public hearing. However, if the Council is truly interested in open communication and citizen input, the lack of any public hearing before making their decision on a 61% tax increase does not seem to reflect this.
Why wasn't the funding for these improvements included in the city's regular biennial budget discussions, or at least the mid-biennial budget updates?
- Good question. We don’t really know why, and can only speculate.
- The need for funding these improvements was certainly known back in November of 2020 when biennial budget discussions were taking place since the underlying reports on which Prop 1 is based were completed in 2017 and 2018.
- Similarly, after already waiting 3 or more years to take action, City Council could have waited 3 more months in order to schedule open, citizen awareness and input discussions during the mid-biennial budget adjustment process this October and November.
- Including discussion of these improvements in the normal budget setting process would have not only encouraged public input, but it would also have caused these items to be considered in the context of the city’s overall priorities and needs.
Why can’t the City fund improvements from our current taxes and other revenue sources?
- They can. It is entirely possible to fund some of the improvements from existing revenue sources. To do this, the City would have to review all City priorities and needs holistically, in order to assign appropriate priorities to parks and safe streets improvements, amidst other City needs; this requires considerable public input.
- Given the uncertainties of the Covid economy and the City's reticence to readily provide clear financial data, it is difficult to determine exactly what the City’s current financial position is. They could have shared this data to support the need for Prop, 1 but they have not done so.
- It is not unreasonable to assume that City revenues are higher than anticipated, as the most recent budget was done with conservative expectations, and economic recovery in some segments (such as housing) has exceeded these expectations (REET taxes).
- We do not know how much the City may have received from Covid-related funds, or infrastructure funds, nor how these funds may have been used.
$5.2 million from Prop 1 is slated for a waterfront park. What will it be like?
- The City doesn’t own the land for this park. We are unable to determine if they have money already committed from other sources to complete a purchase. If they do not, would they attempt to use even more of Prop 1's funds to complete the purchase?
- No general design work has been done for this proposed waterfront park, so we don't know what it would be like, nor what facilities it might provide.
- There are no cost estimates other than raw guesses.
- The city has not collected input on this proposed park—including how much the public is willing to spend to develop it.
Can’t the city fund these improvements with grants or other means?
- Absolutely. There are other sources of funds that would remove some or most of the burden of these costs from the property taxes paid by our citizens. But obtaining these other funding sources takes a little more work.
- The City says it has been unsuccessful in obtaining other funding sources. Success rates are poor when attempting to get grants or other funds for undefined projects with guesstimated costs. Sometimes success rates require several attempts.
- The City has been reasonably successful in obtaining grants in other areas; it is reasonable to assume grants could be obtained for these improvements if they chose to persevere.
I have kids in school. Are you against making our walkways safer for children?
- Absolutely not. We too believe our City needs to address this. Voting no on Prop 1 is not a vote against these improvements. Instead, it is a vote to make the City Council address them in a more cost-effective fashion, with full community involvement in deciding what should be done, what the priorities are, and how much we are willing to spend.
- Prop 1 was not well thought out and has many problems, not the least of which is that it provides the Council with a significant, never-ending flow of money over which the public has no input or control.
Do we really need all of the improvements included in the Safe Streets Plan, and the Parks Recreation Open Space and Trails (PROST) report?
- No. These improvements need thorough definition, citizen review, and input to prioritize our community's desires, balanced against the costs.
Is it true Lake Forest Park has the fewest parks in the area?
- No. This statement by a Councilmember is false. Lake Forest Park currently has 9 parks, which puts us in the middle of the pack with neighboring cities. We also have the second-highest number of parks per capita—only Brier has more.
Are our parks truly in bad shape?
- No. The Parks Recreation Open Space and Trails (PROST) report concludes parks are acceptable but could use improvement. A very small, more recent survey indicated the condition of our parks was “pretty good”.
- Some park improvements would certainly be worthwhile. but the public needs to be involved in deciding which improvements are priorities and which are cost-effective. Prop 1 does not provide an opportunity for citizen input.
What is the "Hidden Tax increase" I hear some people referring to?
- There is a hidden tax increase buried inside the Prop 1 property tax increase for Parks, Streets, and Pedestrian Walkway Improvements.
- A review of budget information currently available reveals that there is already a considerable amount of money in the LFP General Fund being spent on park improvements and maintenance. If Prop 1 were to pass, the council could reassign these expenses in the General Fund to be paid for by the Prop 1 restricted funds set aside for parks, etc. and then use the newly “excess” unrestricted General Fund monies for unrelated projects or expenses of their choosing without public input.
- Essentially part of the Prop 1 funds could become a general tax increase not destined for parks or safe streets.
How soon would these improvements be addressed?
- One council member guessed it would require "some 20 million-ish" in funds just to address the initial set of projects. If Prop 1 provides the City $2 million per year, it would take at least 10 years (inflation and cost overruns are extremely likely and thus would take considerably more than 10 years) to address the initial set of projects.
More info: AbetterwayLFP.org