King County Council to ask voters to raise property taxes to replace emergency radio system

SEATTLE -- The King County Council on Monday approved sending to the voters in April a nine-year property tax increase proposal to raise $273 million to replace the county’s emergency radio system.

If approved by voters, the property tax rate would be raised by not more than $0.07 per $1,000 of assessed value. The levy is projected to generate $273 million. Based on the 2015 median home value in King County, the cost to the median homeowner would be $26.46 per year.

“Our emergency radio system needs replacement and it’s important for voters to weigh in on new equipment for first responders,” Council Chairman Larry Phillips said.

The emergency radio system is used to dispatch first responders (police, fire, EMS) to incidents and allow responders to communicate with each other at those incidents. The system is owned in equal shares by King County, the City of Seattle, Valley Communications Center (ValleyCom), and the East Side Public Safety Communications Agency (ESPCA).

“This system will expand coverage more broadly throughout the county to help preparedness county-wide,” said Council member Kathy Lambert.

The current system has been in service for approximately 20 years. It consists of 26 transmitter sites and multiple interconnecting microwave and fiber systems that support over 100 agencies.

The County Council said the system faces increasing component failures as it ages, and the vendor of the current system plans to discontinue the sale and repair of all components of the system after 2018.