The Thurston County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 last Tuesday to add a ballot proposition in April 2020 that would fund a new courthouse.
The ballot proposition would increase the levy of the regular property tax to fund a new courthouse and regional administrative building during the election held April 28, 2020. The proposition requires a simple majority to pass.
If the measure passes, the new courthouse would be built on the site of the old Olympia City Hall, which is located in downtown Olympia near Plum Street. It would combine 16 county offices and departments, currently spread out across seven buildings, into two adjacent buildings. It would also replace the Olympia Municipal Justice Centre, with the city and county sharing courtrooms and other facilities. It also would feature a “central one-stop customer service desk” that would help people find services, offices, and departments they’re looking for, according to a press release.
The proposition authorizes a maximum increase in the county’s levy rate of no more than $0.47 per $1,000 of assessed value. The rate would be collected for 25 years. For example, if approved, the property tax on a $275,000 house would be approximately an additional $12 per month. The city of Olympia also would contribute funding for the project.
“We are learning through surveys, open houses, and public hearings, the community has questions about the need for a new facility as well as why renovating our current Courthouse isn’t a viable option,” said Board Chair John Hutchings in a prepared statement. “We need time to answer our citizen’s questions about not only the state of the facilities, but the services the county provides and how those services are expanding with the exponential growth, and projected growth, in our county.”
The current courthouse buildings are at the end of their useful life and cost “significant” taxpayer dollars to maintain and operate, according to a press release from the board of commissioners. The current layout is complex and can prove challenging for citizens to navigate, it adds, stating, “A new or updated facility will improve and consolidate services, promote long-term cost savings, and enhance access for citizens looking to do business with the various county offices and departments.”
More information about the project, including frequently asked questions, is available online.