King County Executive Dow Constantine released his proposed 2019-2020 biennial budget today. The two-year budget allocates approximately $11.6 billion to cover the county’s 15,000 employees and over 60 lines of business. This is to serve the largest county in the state that boasts a current population of close to 2.2 million, up 5.25% from 2017 numbers.
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The budget proposes spending increases in several areas of county-wide concern, but remains conservative in others. It focuses proposals in six areas of investment:
- Mobility – Almost one-fifth of the county’s budget, the Proposed Budget requests and increase of $260,263,792 to the Metro transit budget. This includes $33,343,270 for adding 177,000 service hours over the 2 year period, as well as approximately $21 million for increased maintenance, and almost $10.5 million for para-transit system improvements. The Proposed Budget also includes an expansion of Metro’s capital program and related staff to make up for cuts after the Great Recession and to build base capacity for future expansion plans.
- Local Services – The Proposed Budget includes almost $7 million for the newly created Department of Local Services (DLS) created to address the needs of residents located in unincorporated King County. The two largest functions of the DLS are the Road Services Division, formerly part of DOT, and the Permitting Division, formerly its own department. 87 percent of this proposal is allocated to roads, with 11 percent to planning and permitting.
- Homelessness – With homelessness on the rise in King County, the executive’s proposal would provide funding is for a new shelter to be built with modular units, a site to house 25 individuals in modular micro‐dwelling units, and a new shelter in Harborview Hall. The budget proposal also adds $2.5 million to enable providers to expand mental health care availability to home-based settings to help address one of the root cause of homelessness.
- Zero Youth Detention – Executive Constantine has shifted the responsibility for programming in juvenile detention to Public Health – Seattle & King County. The Proposed Budget includes new staff in Public Health to coordinate the work and $2.375 million to address youth behavioral health, diversion, and training of staff in trauma informed care.
- Natural Environment –The budget includes $12.5 million to fix culverts under County‐owned roads and trails, $1.2 million to address flood plane improvements, and $3 million for water quality improvement initiatives. It also proposes debt financing to support up to $148 million new investment in conservation of habitat, urban open space, and working farms and forest land in four years.
- Equity and Social Justice – Woven throughout the budget proposals is an emphasis on Equity and Social Justice initiatives. Specifically, the executive points to investments in mobility options for people with disabilities, programs to prevent youth detention, upstream investment to avoid homelessness, workforce development programs target toward people of color.
Though the economy in the region is currently strong, the proposed budget also cites some points of caution, especially with regard to forecasted revenue. It notes, as in past years, that county revenue is based on two historically volatile sources, sales tax and property tax. Though currently still projected to increase, it notes that the Constitutional limitation on property tax increases and other sales tax limitations constrain county revenue growth and has produced a deficit of close to $24 million in the General Fund. Underfunding from other revenue sources is also projected to affect the Public Health Fund, the Road Fund, and E-911 Fund if not addressed at the state level.
Upon its release Constantine touted the new proposal in a statement,
“In this time of rapid, really unprecedented change, I am restructuring county government to better serve the needs of our 2.2 million residents, while making important investments that reflect our common values,” said Executive Constantine. “We will expand transit, make local government more accountable to unincorporated King County, deploy innovative solutions to tackle homelessness, and make sure we preserve and protect all that makes this place so special. This proposed budget helps realize my vision for King County as a place where all people have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, and contribute to the life of the community.”
The budget proposal was sent to the King County Council today and will be reviewed over the coming months. The Budget and Fiscal Management Committee will hold a series of public meetings to discuss proposed budgets, which will include opportunities for public comment. The council is expected to vote on a final budget in mid-November.