The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) is raising concerns about the city’s escalating tax rates and its failure to address critical issues facing residents. A recent study commissioned by the DSA revealed that Seattle’s general fund and operating fund taxes have skyrocketed at an alarming rate, outpacing the growth of both the economy and the population.
Since 2013, the city’s tax collection per resident has increased by 27%, reaching a staggering $2,514 in 2023. This surge in taxation is largely attributed to a decline in property, sales, business and occupation, and utility taxes, which collectively accounted for 83% of the city’s revenue in 2013 but are projected to drop to 60% in 2024.
The City’s Economic State
Despite the substantial increase in tax revenue, the city has failed to effectively address pressing issues such as gun violence, drug overdoses, homelessness, and police staffing shortages. In 2022, Seattle witnessed its highest number of violent crimes, and the trend shows no signs of abating. As of October 2023, the city has recorded 4,468 violent crimes, with homicides surpassing the 2022 tally.
The DSA’s CEO, Jon Scholes, expressed frustration over the city’s inability to translate rising taxes into tangible improvements. “This report exposes a city council that has been obsessed with raising taxes and spending more money without delivering tangible results on the most pressing issues facing Seattle,” Scholes stated.
The recent approval of an affordable housing levy, which will further increase taxes by $138.6 million annually, has compounded residents’ frustration. This latest tax hike comes amidst growing skepticism about the city’s ability to manage its finances responsibly. A study by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce found that 68% of respondents do not trust the city to spend their tax dollars judiciously, and 61% believe that taxes are too high for the level of services provided.
The DSA urges the city council to address residents’ concerns and prioritize effective solutions to the municipality’s pressing challenges. “This council, with six members who will be out of office in a month and a half, hasn’t earned the right to ask voters and businesses for more taxes when the problems they’ve promised to solve have only worsened,” Scholes emphasized.
So is it all doom and gloom?
While the city of Seattle faces significant challenges, there is a glimmer of hope amidst the concerns. The recent approval of the affordable housing levy, despite the associated tax increase, demonstrates the community’s commitment to addressing the homelessness crisis. This collective effort, if channeled effectively, can lead to meaningful improvements in the lives of Seattle’s most vulnerable residents.
Moreover, the growing public scrutiny over the city’s financial management can serve as a catalyst for positive change. By fostering greater transparency and accountability, the city council can regain the trust of its constituents and ensure that tax dollars are utilized in a responsible and impactful manner.
In the face of adversity, it is important to remember Seattle’s resilience and unwavering spirit. The city has a long history of overcoming obstacles and emerging stronger. With a renewed focus on collaboration, innovation, and responsible governance, Seattle can transform these challenges into opportunities for growth and progress. The path forward may be challenging, but the collective determination of Seattle’s residents and leaders can pave the way for a brighter future.