(The Center Square) – A new study from the Downtown Seattle Association reveals that a major ten-year tax growth was due in part to Seattle voters and the City Council.
The Downtown Seattle Association partnered with economic consultant ECONorthwest to provide an analysis of the local tax landscape in the city.
The study found that city taxes grew more than four times faster than population and employment over the past decade. Seattle’s tax collection grew 94%, as employment grew by 19% and the city population grew by 22% since 2013, according to the data.
Property, sales, business and occupation taxes comprised around 83% of city tax revenues prior to 2013.
However, the Downtown Seattle Association pointed out that the four tax streams have shrunk to around 63% while the city has grown increasingly reliant on new taxes to fuel new spending.
New taxes that stemmed from the Seattle City Council include the Sweetened Beverage Tax, the Short-Term Rental Tax and the Payroll Expense Tax. These taxes came within the last five years. They totaled over $316 million in 2021 and nearly $310 million in 2022. Since 2018, the taxes brought in $700 million to the city, according to the study.
Seattle voters approved $2.7 billion in lid lifts, or increases in total allowable taxation levels, and levies since 2012. These lid lifts were dedicated to operations such as family and children services, low-income housing, elections and library services.
Voters approved a new transportation benefit district funded by a 0.1 percent sales tax and a $60 car tab fee in 2014. In the following year, Seattleites approved a new property tax levy for a metropolitan park district. Altogether, the implemented lid lifts and levies brought in over $350 million in 2021.
Downtown Seattle Association President and CEO John Scholes wrote a letter to the Seattle City Council and Mayor Bruce Harrell outlining the study’s findings as the council and mayor as the two entities work to establish the 2023-2024 biennium budget.
“This report provides context for Seattleites about how their taxes have helped grow the city’s coffers and we hope it proves to be useful for how the city approaches the budget and spending priorities moving forward,” Scholes wrote in the letter.