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Commitment to public safety, homelessness and transportation highlight King County Budget

Summary

Unanimous support for $11.4 Billion plan

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous approval to a King County Budget that will lead to immediate, new investments in combating homelessness and improving public safety.

“This is a ‘back to basics’ budget,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, chair of the Council’s Budget Committee. “It is a responsible and balanced budget that prioritizes core services such as housing, public safety, and transportation.”

The Council aggressively sought to create and fund new, crucial initiatives through a mixture of strategic reforms, prioritization of funds, and innovative approaches to revenue.

Among the top initiatives included in the $11.4 Billion package are the creation of a new homelessness navigation center on county-owned property, restoration of funding for vital regional services like the Sheriff's helicopter and marine units, and expansion of transit service throughout King County.

The Council renewed the County’s commitment to public safety in this budget by restoring planned reductions in the King County Sheriff's Office, including the reduction of the Air Support and Marine Units, along with increasing the number of deputies serving the unincorporated areas. This budget also restores bookings at the Regional Justice Center and provides additional resources for public defense and the King County Prosecutor.

“I’m happy that we were able to include additional funding for road safety and preservation and restore the Sheriff’s marine unit and rescue helicopter divisions (11 deputies) and add two additional patrol deputies,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, Vice Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “As safety and transportation are two of the core responsibilities as the local government of the unincorporated areas, I was very pleased by this outcome. Creating a budget for King County was challenging due to the projected deficit in the general fund which required lots of prioritizing and different choices.”

In 2015, King County declared an emergency in regards to homelessness. The adopted budget commits the County—by itself and in partnerships with local governments and agencies—with new investments in shelters and comprehensive services to help keep homeless individuals and families safe while helping them overcome barriers to securing permanent housing. The initiatives include:

• Development and operation of a twenty-four hour a day/seven day a week emergency shelter on County-owned property across from the Courthouse or another suitable location. The emergency shelter will include day-center services, storage lockers and on-site supportive services and will investigate the installation of hygiene facilities (showers and laundry);
• Development and operation of shelter and housing services at Harborview Hall on Seattle’s First Hill;
• Investment in local partnerships to create programs to assist the homeless in cities outside of Seattle.

“My top priority in this budget was to increase shelter and affordable housing to make a serious dent in our region’s homelessness crisis,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski, a member of the Council’s Budget Leadership Team. “With $7 Million of historic new investments to meaningfully tackle homelessness and serve our most vulnerable neighbors, we are delivering on that goal.”

A growing population needs expanded transportation options to get people to work, school and activities. This adopted budget includes 300,000 new service hours for Metro Transit, increasing alternative transit services and right-size service options, and a focus on making the transit system “cleaner and greener” through the expansion of Metro’s electric bus fleet.

The Council also worked toward making Metro more accessible to low-income riders by making more affordable the current discounted ticket program available for purchase by nonprofit agencies and including funds to waive the current fees for new ORCA cards and Regional Reduced Fare permits, following a study.

“I am proud of all we were able to accomplish for the people of King County and the Eastside in this budget,” said Councilmember Claudia Balducci, member of the Budget Leadership Team. “Over the past several weeks my colleagues and I have worked hard to provide our core public safety and transportation services, while addressing the pressing needs in our community and responding to strong feedback from the public. This budget will provide better access to transit, help our neighbors in need, support active and healthy living, and also save lives.”

Along with being the regional government for over 2,000,000 citizens, King County is the “local government” for more than 250,000 residents living in the County’s unincorporated communities. Along with the increase in sheriff deputies, the adopted budget recognizes the County’s unique role by increasing funds to the roads division to help maintain and repair the County road system, with an additional $4 million for roads maintenance.

Unincorporated communities will also benefit from the creation of a unique program to support active communities. The budget will include funding supporting youth or amateur sport activities or facilities along with funds to support access to sports by underserved youth.

The adopted budget also continues to reaffirm King County’s commitment to equality and inclusion. The budget provides funding for programs such as a new immigrant and refugee commission, new anti-bias training in the Sheriff’s office, and programs to reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system. It also includes funds raised by voter supported levies—Veterans and Human Services and Best Starts for Kids—to provide for our most vulnerable as well as help kids off to healthy starts in life.

“Although the Council and I were able to collaborate on a responsible budget, the broken state tax system continues to undermine our ability to meet the needs of a dynamic, rapidly growing region,” said Executive Dow Constantine. “Along with counties across the state, we are united in calling for Olympia to pass meaningful tax reform next year.”


ADDITIONAL QUOTES

“As a Council, we had a lot of tough decisions to make during this budget process. I’m thankful this budget will continue to support the lifesaving work of the Air Support and Marine Rescue Units and grateful to have had the opportunity to advocate for funds that will support great programs throughout southeast King County.”

--Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn

“Public safety is about insuring that people have roofs over their head, food to eat, access to safe recreational activities, transportation and programs that can help remove the barriers to leading a productive and stable life. Through this budget, we addressed some of these important human services and public safety issues in our county.”

--Councilmember Larry Gossett

“Time and again, studies have shown that children who participate in recreational programs and sports activities become more engaged in their communities. In providing funds to update and maintain our sports facilities, we are providing our families and youth with the tools and opportunities to build stronger communities through stronger families.”

--Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer

“I appreciate the hard work of county staff and councilmembers as we tried to balance the needs of all county residents in the face of a budget shortfall. I am pleased we will continue our commitment to invest in our young people and will fund additional shelters and emergency services for the homeless. I am proud we funded critical needs in Public Health around prevention of both communicable diseases and lead poisoning. And I am pleased we funded further study into best practices to combat human trafficking in King County.”

--Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Contact the Council
Main phone:
206-477-1000
TTY/TDD:
206-296-1024
Fax:
206-296-0198