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King County’s first biennial budget highlights secure families and communities as it meets mandated responsibilities

Summary

Council unanimously adopts spending plan that preserves public safety while maintaining strong bond rating and County reserves

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous approval to the County’s first Biennial (two-year) Budget, a $9 billion plan that revives the King County Sheriff’s Domestic Violence Unit and preserves King County’s AAA bond rating by not using the County’s cash reserves or tapping the rainy day fund.

“Financial pressures from the Great Recession, ever-expanding population growth, and a failing tax structure unable to keep up with citizen demands continue to challenge King County’s ability to deliver even basic services,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips. “Given these binding constraints, the Council can be proud it reached in a timely manner an agreement on a balanced budget maintaining services at critical levels for public health and safety.”

“I’m proud of this budget because, in spite of shrinking revenues, the County continues to help our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, who chairs the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “Our work will continue in the coming years as we work with partners to find more sustainable ways to provide and fund critical services – including those at our public health clinics.”

The adopted budget is the County’s first biennial budget for all county agencies, including those contained within the County General Fund. The adopted General Fund Budget was set at 1.5 billion, three-quarters of which is targeted for law, justice and public safety services.

“We have worked very hard on internal rate stabilization, cost containment and organizational reforms,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “Without these efforts, we could not have faced the tough choices and still been able to provide this budget’s level of service in public health, public safety and infrastructure.”

At the start of the budget process, several public health centers were slated for closure. Residents of the communities that depend on the clinics testified at the special meetings held by the Council about the importance of the centers. Partnerships and collaboration between the county, local jurisdictions and other community agencies helped locate the funding needed to keep the clinic doors open temporarily in Federal Way, White Center, and Auburn. The Council’s budget also includes funding to help keep Northshore, the last of the clinics on the closure list, open into the biennium.

Potential reductions in transit service were also a concern going into the budget process, with the Council committed to reviewing both the levels of bus service and transit reserves during the development of the budget. The 2015-2016 Budget funds full maintenance of existing bus service, while keeping adequate reserves in transit. In addition, the budget increases funding for transit’s alternative services delivery program, which provides transit service other than just a full-size (large) bus on a fixed route.

Public safety within the unincorporated communities where King County is the “local” government will also benefit from the adopted budget. To help in the investigation of those accused of domestic violence, the 2015-2016 Budget includes the restoration of the domestic violence unit—two detectives and a community service officer—within the King County Sheriff’s Office.

“I’m pleased by the progress in this budget. We have added $6 million for rural roads. While this does not solve the road maintenance and repair issues, it is a step in the right direction. We have also added three deputies in the unincorporated areas. This is important as we are the only ‘local government’ for these 250,000 unincorporated residents,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, Vice Chair of the Budget Committee. “These deputies in the Sheriff’s Domestic Violence Unit will help protect our citizens, allow specialized deputies to focus on these cases and free up other deputies to be back on patrol. This budget also is balanced and preserves the County’s high credit rating which saves our taxpayers money.”

The ongoing effort to aid young people in our county, especially homeless youth and survivors of sexual abuse, received additional funding in the budget. The budget includes funding for “Project 360” a new innovative, collaborative program providing trauma-specific therapy, case management and prevention programs for homeless youth.

The adopted budget continues the County Council’s commitment to eliminating long-standing and persistent inequities and social injustices with the establishment of an Office of Equity and Social Justice.

“In the County that is named for America’s foremost Civil Rights leader, I’m encouraged that even during this challenging budget time there continues to be a committed effort to meet the needs of the county’s underserved populations, populations that are predominately communities of color,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “We did this through finding partners to save programs in our public health clinics, ensuring that transit service remains stable for the next two years and with the continued support for programs that help young people who find themselves out on the streets of our county.”

King County is the “local” government for the 250,000 county residents who live in unincorporated communities. The 2015-2016 Budget will include additional funds for the road maintenance division, land use nuisance issues and noxious weed control.

“This is a budget that protects public safety, keeps our health clinics open and restores funding for the Sheriff’s domestic violence unit,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “As with most budgets, there have been many hard choices along the way, but I’m thankful we have been able to work together to maintain the services our residents rely on the most.”

“The allocation of funds during the budget process was extremely competitive and difficult, but by working together I am happy that negotiations resulted in critical financial support for needed services in South King County,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer.  “We need to support organizations which provide educational opportunities, retraining and jobs for those most in need living in South King County.”

With the unanimous vote, the 2015-2016 King County Budget will be sent to County Executive Dow Constantine for his signature.

“Our resources may be very limited, but we continue to work together as a Council and avoid political gridlock,” said Phillips.

Read more about this legislation on the King County Council’s LEGISEARCH system at http://mkcclegisearch.kingcounty.gov  and type in “2014-0394” 

Follow the Council’s deliberations through Facebook and Twitter by signing up through the King County Council Web site at: www.kingcounty.gov/council

Watch all Council proceedings held in chambers LIVE on King County TV  on Comcast and Wave Cable on channel 22, or online at: www.kingcounty.gov/KCTV

 

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