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From: Hayes, Patty
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 12:00 PM
To: ZZDept Public Health
Subject: Update - Public health budget development & process

Good morning,

I wanted to use this month's update to talk with all of you about the budget process -- where we are as a department, what we are trying to do to get to a balanced budget and a timeline of what you can expect. 


First, I want to start with thanking all of you for the tremendous work and sacrifices you have made over the past few years. Many of you have seen your workloads increase, forgone training and travel opportunities, participated in the 2015 step freeze and worked extra hard on applying efficiencies and different practices to save money throughout the department. Your good work has made a huge difference and has been noticed.  I also want to acknowledge and celebrate the passage of Best Starts for Kids -- I know that many of you helped with this effort, either as part of your daily work or sharing with your friends and family the importance of the initiative in helping to change the lives of individuals, families and communities in King County.

Budget outlook

As we move into the budget development process for our next biennium, the King County General Fund is facing significant budget challenges, with a projected shortfall of up to $50 million over the next biennium (2017/2018). There will be extensive discussions and difficult decisions in order to close this gap. As I'll explain further, this has implications for our budget.

The outlook for the Public Health Fund, our largest fund, over the next biennium is better overall than two years ago, as we're not anticipating service cuts at the same scale. But significant challenges remain. We have a considerable debt to pay back in this fund and no financial reserves, our costs increase with inflation and population growth while our revenues stay flat and important grants are expiring.

We receive important support from the county General Fund, and divisions and programs that use this funding source are facing the biggest risks. Because of the financial challenges I mentioned for the county, the General Fund cannot help to solve our own challenges nor be available to fund all of our existing needs. For these divisions and programs, there will need to be continued work to keep expenses down, find efficiencies, identify new grants and limit any impact on services.

Not all Public Health divisions and programs are in the same financial situation for the 2017/2018 budget. Some divisions outside of the Public Health Fund have stable revenue backing (e.g., Emergency Medical Services, Environmental Health) that support their current services.

Looking ahead to the following biennium in 2019/2020, the projected gap in the Public Health Fund between revenues and the cost of delivering services and repaying the debt will widen even further if we do not find additional sustainable sources of funding. Without a new funding source, the result would be significant impacts to critical programs and services.

Continuing to work on solutions

I continue to work hard with our Executive's Office, our Health Officer, division directors and agency leadership on our budget challenges. A crucial strategy for additional sustainable funding is continuing to work with other Washington state counties on state funding for Foundational Public Health Services.

You may have heard me mention Foundational Public Health Services before – this is a new national framework that is emerging across the country and Washington state has been a leader in the practical application of this concept. I’ll be sharing more on this soon, but this framework calls out the importance of state funding for governmental public health services that are so basic, they must be available to every resident of Washington state – no matter where you live. These are services like communicable disease prevention and response, environmental health services such as responding to lead exposure, and many other public health services that are the baseline for a healthy population.

As we move toward a new two-year state budget cycle, I am so appreciative that the King County Executive and Council will again include foundational Public Health funding among the county’s top three legislative priorities.

Next steps

Here is the timeline you can expect for the development of our county's 2017/2018 budget. I commit to keeping you informed as we move through the budget process.

  • We submit our department budget to the Executive's Office by the end of June.
  • Over the summer, we work with the Executive’s Office as they review our budget as part of its process.
  • In September, the Executive’s budget gets transmitted to the King County Council.
  • A final budget is typically passed by the King County Council in November.

I want you to know that working on these budget and policy decisions is my number one priority. I am working with a dedicated leadership team who share that same commitment. Thank you again for your awesome work and dedication and commitment you bring to your work every day.


Patty Hayes, RN, MN
Public Health – Seattle & King County
Work:  206.263.8285
Cell:  206.291.7177

For more information, visit: 2015/2016 adopted budget.