Voters’ Stinginess Stings Victims of Abuse and Rape

November 3, 2010; Source: Seattle Times | The impact of Tuesday’s elections on nonprofits isn’t limited to voters’ choices about who they want to run government. In Seattle, for example, the defeat of a ballot measure to increase King County’s sales tax has social service groups fearing they’ll pay for voters’ stinginess.

Without the additional revenue that the tax hike would have provided, more than a dozen agencies that serve domestic-violence and sexual assault victims are facing a $900,000 drop in county support. “There’s nothing to save them,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, chairwoman of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “That’s why we wanted to go to the ballot, because we knew that the budget would cut so deeply into those services that keep the public safe and healthy.”

Voters soundly rejected Proposition 1, which would have raised the sales tax two-tenths of a percent, by 56 percent to 46 percent. Any hope of preventing deep cuts to social services rests on the county’s willingness and ability to find savings elsewhere, and at least one official pledges to try to make that happen. Although he opposed the tax hike, Councilman Reagan Dunn said, “I think domestic violence and sexual assault are critical services that need to be, in part, paid for by local government.” Dunn believes that by shelving studies and trimming “pork” from the 2011 budget, the county can restore many services.

Domestic violence groups are already struggling due to limited resources, and further cuts in funding will only make things worse. According to the Seattle Times, 11,137 people called the crisis hotline at the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network in 2009. But the paper reports that for every 23 people requesting emergency shelter the organization turned away 22 because it didn’t have space. Similarly, many who needed counseling or legal assistance ended up on waiting lists or being referred to other agencies.—Bruce Trachtenberg