Newly released King County documents reveal that even County officials have warned that the project could be “catastrophic” to King County’s General Fund.
In September 2017, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that King County has been unlawfully collecting property taxes for the proposed youth jail, a ruling that effectively eliminates the majority of the funding for the project. County records revealed that one day after the court decision, King County Budget Director, Dwight Dively, emailed officials, stating that, if the County is unsuccessful in the appeal, the project would need to be “paid from the General Fund, resulting in even more financial pressure on other services.” Specifically, the County would be required to issue bonds with an estimated annual debt service of $11.4 million dollars for the next 30 years. Then again, in December 2017, Mr. Dively emailed officials, stating that, a loss could add $50-200 million to the General Fund, and that the “effect is potentially catastrophic.” Click here for Dively’s email. Nevertheless, without any alternative funding source in place, King County continued construction on the $210 million project.
Another recently released letter seems to suggest the Executive did not follow advice regarding the project. It also suggests that the Executive was not cooperative with the council in providing information to answer legal and policy questions.
Pressure is increasing on Dow Constantine, who has continued the project against mounting opposition. Constantine has defended the project, arguing that he supports “zero youth detention” as a goal and promoting the county’s investment in “Best Starts for Kids,” which provides grants to local organizations serving youth. Organizers, however, pointed out the disparity between King County’s willingness to fund “Best Starts for Kids” for only six years, while continuing construction on a punishment facility designed to last for fifty years with uncertain funds. Organizers vowed to continue the growing fight to put King County on a better path.