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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive calls for regional investment in healthy children and communities

Summary

The "Best Starts for Kids" levy proposal will put plans for prevention and early intervention into action as the Executive delivered his 2015/2016 biennial budget proposal, which identifies $35 million in new efficiencies.

Story

20140922111921_IMG_0057With transmittal of his 2015/2016 proposed budget, King County Executive Dow Constantine called for a regional investment in healthy children and communities—one that can prevent such crises as violence, diabetes, and mental illness, and thereby reduce long-term demand on services funded in the King County budget.

"We can build a more prosperous and equitable King County by assuring that every baby born and every child raised in this community has a strong start in life and enters adulthood ready to succeed," said Executive Constantine in an address to the Metropolitan King County Council. "Over time, investing in healthy children and communities will save lives, and balance our budgets."

The "Best Starts for Kids" levy proposal will put into action work that is underway with the King County Health and Human Services Transformation Plan and Youth Action Plan Task Force. That work, along with a large body of scientific evidence, confirms the earlier investments are made in the lives of children, the higher the return. Early childhood programs that have followed children into adulthood have shown returns ranging from $3 to $17 for every dollar invested.

Much of King County's and others' funding, however, is focused on costly, late-stage intervention for crises such as incarceration, violence, diabetes, and mental illness. While King County has been a national leader in developing innovative alternatives, the demand for services is overwhelming providers and budgets.

The Executive’s "Best Starts for Kids" levy proposal focuses on three areas:

  • Pregnancy and early childhood: The latest advances in the science of brain development prove that pregnancy and the first 1,000 days of life offer the greatest return on investment. Healthier moms deliver healthier babies, while toddlers and preschoolers raised in an environment that fosters strong social and emotional connections develop a foundation for lifelong health, educational success and well-being.
  • School-aged children and youth: Brains continue to develop and lifelong habits are formed throughout one’s youth. Positive family and social relationships support positive development. Targeted interventions to promote health and well-being can prevent physical and behavioral issues from emerging, and quickly identifying and intervening at the first sign of such problems produces the best outcomes.
  • Communities of opportunity: For children to be healthy and succeed, the communities in which they are raised must also be healthy. A place-based strategy, designed through an innovative partnership between Transformation Plan partners and The Seattle Foundation and others, can create environments that improve outcomes for King County’s children and families.

Based on the framework announced in the budget proposal, Executive Constantine will work over the next several months with Transformation Plan partners, the Youth Action Plan Task Force, and other community leaders. Together, he will engage the community in defining regional investments in healthy children and communities, and to develop a specific proposal to send to the King Council in April, for consideration for placement on the ballot in 2015.

Details of the Executive's Proposed Budget

The Executive's Proposed 2015/2016 Biennial Budget is the County’s first fully biennial budget. The two-year plan calls for $8.9 billion in all funds, with $1.5 billion in the General Fund. Once again, the budget proposal holds long-term growth in the General Fund to 3.3 percent—just under the rate of inflation plus population growth—a course first charted by Executive Constantine five years ago when budgets were growing at 5 to 6 percent a year.

But despite economic growth in the region, revenues that support the County’s General Fund, will grow at only about 2.5 percent a year, with property tax revenues capped by law at an arbitrary one percent plus new construction.

"We operate under an antiquated and profoundly broken tax system that is mathematically incapable of generating the minimum revenue necessary to sustain public services," said Executive Constantine. "Over 10 years, the cumulative loss to the General Fund is $393 million dollars. That represents services the people of King County need but won't receive, now and in the future, because of the state tax system."

Through the Executive’s continuous improvement and Lean initiatives, this budget creates $35 million in new efficiencies and cost reductions across all funds, including:

  • Steady work by the Safety and Claims Office over the past three years to reduce long-term disability, make sure workers’ compensation is paid only to those who qualify, and return employees to the workplace as soon as possible.
  • Improvement in safety training for operators and crews of all kinds that has reduced accidents and liability claims.
  • Identification by Metro Transit of service and maintenance efficiencies that allowed it to eliminate 40 buses from the fleet, with no effects on service.
  • A major Lean effort at Transit’s Ryerson base to reduce the inventory it keeps of spare bus parts and improve ordering practices.
  • Reorganization of the transportation system in Adult Detention to enable fewer inmate transfers between jails.
  • Comprehensive deployment of Lean in King County Elections that improved ballot processing speed and accuracy while reducing costs.
  • Use of Lean in Public Health clinics to improve efficiency and effectiveness of patient treatment, and to enroll more patients in Medicaid.

A profoundly broken system

budget_address_2015-16_IMG_7387Public transit and public health services that were once reliably sustained by a progressive Motor Vehicle Excise Tax are now funded, in the case of Metro Transit, by volatile sales taxes that have not recovered since the recession.

In the case of Public Health, services funded primarily by state and federal funds have seen continual decline and even abrupt withdrawal. County Road Services are funded by an unincorporated area levy that, due to the success of growth management in King County, is supported by only a fraction of County residents.

Despite substantial savings from continuous improvement and Lean, the consequence of what the Executive called "smaller government by default" is reduction in service in several areas, and elimination of more than 500 full-time positions. After accounting for vacancies, retirements, and other adjustments, the number of actual employee layoffs is just over 200. Full details are contained in the Executive Summary.

The Metropolitan King County Council plans a number of public hearings on the Executive Proposed Budget and will adopt a final King County Budget in November.


Relevant links


Quotes

We can build a more prosperous and equitable King County by assuring that every baby born and every child raised in this community has a strong start in life and enters adulthood ready to succeed. Over time, investing in healthy children and communities will save lives, and balance our budgets.

We operate under an antiquated and profoundly broken tax system that is mathematically incapable of generating the minimum revenue necessary to sustain public services. Over 10 years, the cumulative loss to the General Fund is $393 million dollars. That represents services the people of King County need but won't receive, now and in the future, because of the state tax system.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

We have an opportunity to support children in the earliest days of their lives so that by the time they enter school they have all the tools they need to succeed. Too often, children come to us with health and social problems that could have been avoided if we as a community had the resources to support them earlier in their lives,” said Mike Heinisch, Executive Director of Kent Youth and Family Services. “Executive Constantine’s bold action will allow us to take the neuroscience of early childhood development and turn it into action at the local level.

Mike Heinisch, Executive Director of Kent Youth and Family Services

The latest advances in neuroscience prove that the first thousand days in a child's life are the crucial period that lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning. By providing assistance and support that is known to increase a child’s brain development, we can help parents and caregivers from all socioeconomic backgrounds give our children the greatest opportunity to succeed. We look forward to working with Executive Constantine on applying the latest research for the benefit of our children and our communities.

Dr. Andrew Meltzoff, Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Science (I-LABS) at the University of Washington

For more information, contact:

Frank Abe, frank.abe@kingcounty.gov, 206-263-9609
Chad Lewis, chad.lewis@kingcounty.gov, 206-263-1250



King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography