Myth or Fact


Providing Answers To Common Myths

Have you heard something about the City of Covington and wondered if it's true? Here are some answers to those common questions. If there is something else you would like to know, please contact us through Covington Connection to ask questions and we'll try to find an answer for you.

MYTH: The City's budget is tight because the City spends money building expensive projects like streets and parks.
FACT: Funding for projects does not take away money from other services, such as police or public works. Most capital funds, such as those used to build and/or maintain roads, streets and parks, are restricted by State law. In certain cases, Council has authorized specific unrestricted revenues, such as sales and utility taxes, to help pay for services in more than one fund. For example, sales tax revenue is divided between the General Fund, Parks and Recreation Fund, and the Cumulative Reserve Fund.

The City budget is made up of different funds or "companies". Each fund operates with its own revenue. For example:

  • The General Fund - which provides for the City's day-to-day operations - gets most of its revenue from property, sales and utility taxes. Generally, these revenue sources are not used to support other funds or companies.
  • In the case of the Capital Fund, project funding comes from Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) - which is restricted to capital projects, grants, mitigation fees, bond proceeds, utility tax, and other revenues limited to project funding.
MYTH: The City has the authority to stop growth and keep Covington rural.
FACT: King County's decision to include Covington in the Urban Growth Area (UGA) prior to the City's incorporation is the primary reason for rapid growth in Covington. The City Council can only manage growth to some degree by working with city staff to ensure that zoning codes are in effect which allow growth that is consistent with the Council's vision or with the image the City would like to portray.
MYTH: The City allows any type of development/activity into the community. For example: Why does the City allow more xyz stores into the Community, when we already have three xyz stores?
FACT: The City does not decide what specific stores open in Covington; these decisions are made by private property and business owners. The City Council zones property throughout the city. Property owners then submit building permit applications for new buildings or for new stores in existing buildings. Each building permit application is reviewed by city staff to ensure that the proposal complies with the zoning standards for that specific property. If the new building or store does comply with the zoning, the City is required to allow the building to be built or the proposed store to open.
MYTH: Costco built the new 168th Place SE/165th Place SE.
FACT: Through the payment of mandatory traffic impact fees collected by the City, Costco contributed its fair share of $2,152,057 toward the $13 million project, but the City built the new 168th Place SE/165th Place SE. The 168th/165th Place SE project plays an important part in implementing the City's Downtown Plan by:
  • Improving circulation of vehicle traffic in the area by providing alternate routes between Covington Way and SR 516 (Kent-Kangley);
  • Providing the necessary roads to support new commercial developments such as Costco; and
  • Installing a new waterline in partnership with the Covington Water District that will improve the fire flow availability to serve the area.
MYTH: The City has not taken steps to curb panhandling in Covington.
FACT: A number of Covington residents expressed concern to the City Council recently about the increase in panhandling activity within the City of Covington. The City Council passed an ordinance at its December 9, 2008 meeting to prohibit aggressive begging and begging within a school zone. In May 2010, the City Council passed an ordinance amending the existing one that further prohibits panhandling that poses a risk to traffic or public safety. Since then, the city has seen a dramatic decrease in panhandling.
MYTH: The City's Utility Tax does nothing to benefit me as a resident of Covington.
FACT: The Covington Utility Tax provides needed city services. On November 27, 2007, the Covington City Council passed an ordinance to establish a 5.5% utility tax within the City of Covington. The utility tax has generated new revenue to allow Covington to go beyond the most basic of services.

The utility tax is levied upon the privilege of conducting an electric energy, natural or manufactured gas, solid waste, telephone, or cable television business within the City of Covington.

The utility tax generates approximately $2 million dollars per year for the City and costs the average Covington resident approximately $6 per month or $24 per month for a household of four. For a small business, one with about 1,000 square feet of space, the monthly rate is about $13. The Utility Tax is dedicated to police, parks, and streets, helping to provide:

  • Power shift and graveyard police officers.
  • A Parks and Recreation Director.
  • A Parks Capital Improvement Program - Funding provided to assist with the development of the City's 180th/240th Park and other parks.
  • Two Seasonal Maintenance Workers.
  • A Partial Restoration of Recreation Division and Program Funding.
  • Street Overlay and Preventive Maintenance Service.
  • A Senior Information Systems Administrator.
Other tangible benefits that are being provided by the utility tax to the City of Covington and its residents are:
  • Police Investigations and Staffing Overtime Fund
  • Update the Transportation Mitigation System
  • Update the Transportation Concurrency System
MYTH: It is difficult to get a timely response from the Covington Police Department.
FACT: All 911 communications are routed to the same central communications center and police dispatch is made based on the assessed level of priority. Locations that are in the unincorporated areas are served by the King County Sheriff's Office with just one car covering a geographic area that is as large as five to six square miles (about the size of Covington). Covington police are dispatched only if there is an incident in progress within the Covington city limits, or there is an immediate risk. The Covington Police Department has two to three officers on duty at any one time, depending on the day of the week and time of day.

Police staffing was identified as a budget priority by the Covington City Council at its May 2007 summit. The City Council also passed a resolution on November 20, 2007, which noted the Council's desire to improve the level of police services in the City of Covington, improve officer safety and officer morale, and therefore achieve a minimum of two officers on duty at all times.

The addition of two officers achieves the Council's commitment to improve the level of police services for the City by providing a total of ten officers to Covington's Reactive Patrol and moving the City closer to having at least two officers on duty at all times. Covington's Reactive Patrol is staffed as follows:

1st Shift - 3 Officers
2nd Shift - 3 Officers
3rd Shift - 1 Officer [Power Shift]
4th Shift - 3 Officers

MYTH: There is too much gang activity/graffiti in the City of Covington.

Gang activity is on the increase in all jurisdictions. The City of Covington is making a concerted effort to document gang related incidents by reaching out to the community and encouraging citizens to report all gang related incidents. As a result, residents are doing a better job of reporting incidents that, in the past, may not have been reported, which in turn allows officers the ability to investigate concerns and better monitor incidents that are gang related.

The Covington Police Department has seen a couple of spikes in gang related incidents, which most of the time involve gang affiliated tagging graffiti. However, it is important to note that not all tagging is gang related. In fact, much of the graffiti that appears to be gang related is done by non-gang members. Police have instituted increased patrols in the affected neighborhoods, mostly two person foot patrols in the evening and late night hours. The increased patrols have been successful, allowing patrols to identify some of the responsible parties, and the incidents quickly subsided. The City intends to continue with this program and is in the process of developing its "next steps" plan with current limited funds and resources.

As a parent, citizen and resident you can best assist us by being alert to activity in your own neighborhood. Report activity that is suspicious and listen to your children and what they have to say. Speak with your children about their safety and help them to make wise choices for themselves.

Covington is a pretty safe community. Like any other city, we have our problems but fortunately not on a scale that many jurisdictions are faced with. We continue to strive to improve the safety of the community and respond to the needs of the residents with the resources we have available.

We encourage businesses and residents alike to call the Covington Police Department with their concerns, and to report incidents as they occur. The numbers are:

Emergency matters: 911
Non emergency matters: (206) 296-3311

MYTH: Speeding traffic at the roundabouts in the Kentwood High School area (SE 256th Street/164th Avenue SE) is causing pedestrian safety concerns. People using the roundabouts just don't understand how they work.
FACT: The roundabout at SE 256th Street/164th Avenue SE has improved traffic flow and safety. One of the reasons that the roundabout was chosen for this intersection was because of the significant pedestrian/student activity. Roundabouts have proven to be safer for pedestrians because the geometrics of the roundabout require motorists to reduce speed. This reduced speed often results in drivers stopping at crosswalks. The Covington Police Department also continues to conduct regular enforcement activities at various times of the day, especially by the City's Motorcycle Traffic Officer.

Prior to the roundabout at the intersection of SE 256th Street/164th Avenue SE becoming operational, staff from the Covington Police Department, Public Works Department and the City Clerk's Office made several presentations for the Kent School District addressing how to properly drive and navigate roundabouts. A training video was also filmed at Kentwood High School, which has been presented to students, and the City published a number of articles regarding the construction of roundabouts and how to drive through them in local papers.

The majority of motorists have adjusted well to the roundabouts in Covington. Perhaps the best proof is that many people who had concerns about roundabouts are now indicating that the roundabouts really do work.

The City of Covington wants you to know that your comments and questions are always welcome. Please send us questions and/or concerns that you have. City staff will make sure that all your questions are answered and will work to post common questions and concerns on this Myth/Fact page to better keep you informed about what is happening in your Covington community.