Voters could decide $118.9 million levy for fingerprint services

August 2, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

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King County voters could decide on a $118.9 million property tax levy to continue funding criminal fingerprint identification services for local law enforcement agencies.

The proposal is to keep the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, in operation through 2018. The system provides criminal fingerprint identification services to law enforcement agencies throughout the county.

The proposed renewal levy rate is 5.92 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $20.72 per year for a $350,000 home.

Voters approved the initial AFIS levy in 1986, and overwhelmingly renewed the levy since then, most recently in 2006. The current levy expires in December.

“As a regional crime-fighting tool, AFIS is our ‘CSI: King County,’ bringing new technology to the job of cracking cases and catching criminals,” County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement.

Constantine sent renewal levy legislation to the King County Council on May 24. The council is left to decide whether to place the measure on the November ballot.

“AFIS is our No. 1 crime-fighting tool in King County, solving more crimes than all other forensic sciences combined,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a statement.

Law enforcement officials throughout the county, including King County Sheriff Steve Strachan, endorsed the AFIS proposal.

The legislation sent to the council asks voters to continue funding current services, including a palm print-matching AFIS installed last year.

The maintenance levy proposal includes $11.5 million to replace the aging and inadequate regional processing lab and continue technology improvements started in the current levy cycle, such as fingerprinting in the courts and remote fingerprinting in the field by officers.

In the current 2007-12 levy cycle, the rate dropped several times, resulting in $18 million less collected than had been approved by voters. No property taxes needed to be collected for AFIS in 2006, due to reserves built up in the 2000-05 levy cycle.

“As technology continues to evolve, it is important for law enforcement to have the technological tools available to use in identifying and prosecuting criminals,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, the Issaquah representative, said in a statement.

“Over the past 24 years, our AFIS system has proven its value in solving crimes.”

The bid to increase the property tax rate in a difficult economy initially gave Dunn pause, too.

“I am going to vote for it,” he said. “I wasn’t certain when I voted it out of the council that I was going to support it, but I knew it was a serious enough proposal that it needed to go to the voters.”

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