Whatcom County Auditor's Office reviews initiative petition to repeal Healthy Children’s Fund


Initiative 2024-01, a measure to repeal Proposition 5 that created the Healthy Children’s Fund, is under review by the Whatcom County Auditor’s office for inclusion in the November 5 election.

The petition, backed by a political action committee called Washingtonians for a Sound Economy, was submitted to the county auditor’s office June 3. Auditor Stacy Henthorn said she expects the office will finish verifying signatures by the end of the week.

The petition needs 6,392 signatures from registered voters in Whatcom County to move forward in the initiative process. The petition submitted 9,833 signatures, Henthorn said.

Whatcom County voters passed Proposition 5 by only 20 votes in the November 2022 election, which had a turnout of nearly 71 percent of county voters.

Proposition 5 authorized the county to increase property taxes to fund early learning programs, childcare and support for homeless and other vulnerable children. Whatcom County Health and Community Services (WCHCS), which has four employees working fulltime on the Healthy Children’s Fund, administers the money to organizations operating the programs.

The measure increased the regular property tax levy by $.19 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the next 10 years, equating to about $95 collected annually from the owner of a $500,000 home.

The fund is collecting roughly $10 million annually, and has collected about $15 million so far, said Sarah Simpson, child and family program supervisor at WCHCS.

Washingtonians for a Sound Economy’s website outlines that its main purpose in repealing Proposition 5 would be to lower county taxes. The tax worsens housing affordability and hurts residents struggling financially, the political action committee wrote on its website.

Campaign spokesperson Ashley Butenschoen said momentum for the repeal initiative began during election season last year, when volunteers for other campaigns were hearing concerns about Proposition 5 and general cost of living increases while talking to voters. The group began collecting signatures across Whatcom County on March 27.

“Hearing from the residents of our community, they’re stressed about the affordability of Whatcom County and Washington state as a whole,” Butenschoen said. “This is a way to push back on a measure that wasn’t widely supported.”

According to the Public Disclosure Commission, Washingtonians for a Sound Economy had raised $59,700 in donations as of June 3.

The WCHCS has so far contracted or awarded $6.2 million for the Healthy Children’s Fund, which include $2.8 million for families at risk of homelessness, $800,000 for basic needs for children and $500,000 for drop-in childcare, Simpson said.

“We’re super excited about the progress being made and know more and more community benefit is going to be rolling out as time goes on,” Simpson said.

The auditor’s office began verifying signatures June 4. The public is able to watch the verification process at the auditor’s office, which can accommodate up to 12 people. Signatures will be verified from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the auditor’s office, 311 Grand Avenue, suite 103, in Bellingham. Signature reviewing will not be live streamed on the auditor’s website because state law prohibits photos being taken of voter signatures.

If the petition is verified, Whatcom County Council will need to accept the petition and create a resolution, allowing the auditor to put the measure in the November general election. Council may also adopt a substitute proposal, and both proposals would be on the ballot.

For questions about the auditor’s office reviewing the petition, contact the election division at the office at elections@co.whatcom.wa.us or 360/778-5102.


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