Unanimous adoption of spending plan that preserves public safety and human services, maintains strong bond rating and County reserves
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously adopted a 2013 King County Budget that continues to meet the needs of County residents while making strategic investments for King County’s future.
“This budget is responsible and just. We invest one-time money to shore up our social safety net and help the vulnerable in our community on a path toward a productive life. We continue to change how County government operates to allow us to deliver services in a more efficient manner,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.
The adopted $7.6 billion budget includes a $685 million General Fund Budget, of which 73 percent is directed toward public safety and criminal justice programs. Even as the County continues to feel the effect of the Great Recession, the proposed budget would maintain the County’s AAA bond rating by not using the County’s cash reserves or tapping the rainy day fund.
“Efficiencies in operations across the criminal justice system will help narrow the structural gap in the general fund caused by revenue growth that is limited to less than inflation,” said Budget Committee Vice Chair Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who also chairs the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “With better coordination, savings in one department will have a ripple effect among the Sheriff’s Office, courts, prosecutors and jails, while also improving outcomes for those caught up in the criminal justice system. Alternatives such as therapeutic courts and pre-trial diversion will continue to provide savings by helping people to avoid incarceration and repeat offenses.”
“I’m proud that this budget promotes efficiency and strategic planning, and stays true to King County’s commitment to equity and social justice,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, a member of the Council’s Budget Leadership Team. “In this budget, we prioritized the delivery of core county services while strengthening the community “safety net” as people continue to struggle in our recovering economy.”
“I am proud to say that despite these tough economic times, this budget stands up to the test of fiscal responsibility, respect and care for all who reside within county borders,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague, who was on the Budget Leadership Team.
The 2013 Budget incorporates the goals of the King County Strategic Plan, maintains a commitment to equity and social justice, and continues the County’s efforts to provide services in an efficient and cost effective manner.
While the adopted budget maintains a number of proposals from the budget introduced by County Executive Dow Constantine on September 24, it does not enact the Executive’s vehicle license fee proposal.
“The proposal to enact a transportation benefit district was a small solution to a very large problem,” said McDermott. “You will find the County in Olympia with a diverse and committed group of allies asking for a dedicated and adequate funding source for roads and transit.”
“King County as a whole has continued to implement efficiencies in order to meet our budget and this budget mandates that we continue to do so. I want to thank our employees for continuing to give the highest level of services to the people of King County in light of our budget difficulties,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “However, we will not be able to sustain our services in the coming years if we do not find additional revenue to maintain services levels for our core services and to ensure that King County addresses the needs of the most vulnerable in this area.”
“I am pleased we were able to work together for the citizens of King County and pass a budget that protects the County’s AAA credit rating,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “In these challenging economic times it important we act in a fiscally prudent manner to deliver the best services to the constituents we represent.”
The adopted budget includes:
• $1.3 million in funds to countywide regional human service organizations to help shore-up the health and human services safety net. These funds support domestic violence shelters, legal aid, services for sexual assault survivors, post-incarceration education, and housing services.
• Funds to support a coordinated, comprehensive approach to the issue of human trafficking. The adopted budget requires the Sheriff and Public Health-Seattle King County to lead a countywide effort to address human trafficking. The collaborative approach will find and support victims, develop successful suppression strategies, identify strategic investment opportunities, and provide additional shelter beds. These efforts will help take youth off the streets and away from prostitution.
• Leveraging the Affordable Care Act by requiring the Executive to assess and propose an integrated health and human services plan which will likely include the reorganization or consolidation of county departments.
• Preserving funding and staffing levels for the Superior and District Courts and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. This will allow the ability to file criminal cases in a timely and judicious manner and supports the diversion of low-level adult and juvenile cases from the criminal justice system.
“Ensuring the integrity of our justice system was one of my top budget priorities for this budget, so I am pleased we were able to preserve funding for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and expand support for countywide civil legal aid programs,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson. “An effective and accessible justice system is among the most important services we provide for King County residents.”
The budget also supports several other initiatives:
• It allocates funding to ensure that the King County Sheriff’s Office has sufficient resources to maintain and replace the commissioned officers it needs for patrol. The Office has seen a growing number of retirements.
• Makes strategic investments to reduce recidivism by continuing to support two gang intervention programs and improve educational opportunities for those leaving jail.
• In keeping with the County’s commitment to equity and social justice, this budget asks the Executive to determine the needs and resources available to make the County’s website available in more languages to increase the ability of all of the County’s residents to access vital information.
Finally, the budget focuses on strategic planning, particularly in the county’s long-term capital facility needs. Specifically:
• It asks the Executive to work with the cities that are a part of the County’s solid waste system to determine their long-term commitment. This will either reinforce the need for the half-billion dollar transfer station upgrade process, or determine the need to reevaluate those investments.
• The Council asked the Executive to look at the County’s required investments to deal with the combined sewer overflow issue in the wastewater treatment division. The report will examine if the County is building the facilities in the correct order or if the County should reorder those projects and accelerate borrowing to take advantage of the historic low costs in the bond market.
“The 2013 King County budget reflects a continued commitment to make county government function more efficiently, and to work in partnership with private businesses to address our constituent’s concerns in our communities,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “Government works best when we all work together.”
Read the adopted 2013 King County budget (PDF, 762KB)