Sept. 26, 2011
Constantine delivers budget with no cuts to general services, thanks to efficiencies and savings
Executive credits successful implementation of his reform agenda and partnership with employees for balanced budget proposal for 2012
King County Executive Dow Constantine today delivered a balanced 2012 budget with no cuts to services in the General Fund – a budget that embraces his reform agenda of partnering with employees to create efficiencies that maintain the current level of services at three percent less cost.
“We are preserving services and putting aside savings,” said Executive Constantine in his address in the chambers of the King County Council. “My proposed budget is balanced, with no further cuts to services in the General Fund, by working with employees to make this government more efficient. Surrounded everywhere by seas of red ink, we have made King County an island of relative stability.”
The 2012 Executive Proposed Budget overall totals $5.3 billion, with $648 million in the General Fund. While a General Fund shortfall of $20 million for 2012 was projected at this time last year, the Executive said savings from scores of efficiencies generated by employees more than wipe out that expected deficit and preserve services across the board.
EFFICIENCIES: The most prominent efficiency in the 2012 proposed budget is the dramatic drop in the cost of providing employee health care – $61 million below budget over two years, including $38 million in 2012. By helping employees improve their health, the County’s nationally-recognized Healthy IncentivesSM program is containing costs beyond expectations. The savings preserved are the equivalent of 12 Sheriff’s deputies, or seven deputy prosecutors, or 20 public health nurses – with comparable services preserved in each and every department. Other efficiencies reflected in the 2012 budget include:
- Identification of 54 county vehicles that could be eliminated, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- An office consolidation plan that will save $2 million a year by making smarter use of office space – vacating the entire Blackriver Building in Renton, and mothballing five floors of the Yesler Building.
- Consolidation of computer servers from across all departments into a single County data center in Tukwila, saving $300,000 a year.
- Consolidation of the Sheriff’s Eastside precincts into a new facility in Sammamish City Hall, increasing patrol time on the streets and saving $400,000 a year.
- $250,000 a year by moving the White Center Public Health Center to the business district in Greenbridge, providing better service to patients.
- Upgrading the heating and cooling systems in the King County Courthouse and King County Jail to save $750,000 a year in energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 3,000 tons, and save 7-million gallons of water per year.
INVESTMENTS: With savings from new efficiencies, the Executive’s budget makes investments that generate even more savings in the future. As he pledged in his Blueprint for Reform, the Executive called for the discipline to set aside savings by adding $2.7 million to the County’s rainy day funds.
At a time when the debt of even the federal government is downgraded, this strategy raises the County’s General Fund reserves above the 6 percent minimum to help ensure the County retains its sterling AAA bond rating that saves ratepayers on the cost of borrowed money for major capital projects.
The Executive also proposed setting aside $9.1 million in other reserves to buffer against uncertainty in future sales tax revenues.
With $1 million from efficiency savings, the Executive’s budget proposes creation of a one-time fund for human services to invest in non-profit partners who provide food for the needy, support for the homeless, and tools for diverse communities still struggling with recession. The competitive pool of funds would provide more than 40 grants, under $25,000 each, serving communities throughout the county, to be used for capital improvement, technology, or capacity building.
The budget proposal allocates proceeds from the just-completed $10 million sale of the Kingdome North Lot to help honor long-standing commitments for affordable housing and make other one-time investments.
TRANSFORMATION OF BUSINESS PRACTICES: In partnership with The Boeing Company and Group Health, the Executive Proposed Budget seeks to create more value for customers with fewer resources by expanding a successful pilot project in the business-world practice of LEAN. The LEAN program aims to redesign obsolete and cumbersome business practices through continuous improvement and employee engagement. In two successful pilots:
- License tabs renewed by mail that used to take 3 weeks to process are now being mailed back to drivers in less than five days.
- Taxi and limousine drivers who have been waiting up to 60 days to receive their license renewals should by next month receive them in under 10 days.
The Executive’s budget also calls for piloting a product-based budget in six agencies that makes it more apparent to the public what an agency produces and what they get for their money. Product-based budgeting looks at the specific services an agency provides as products that can be measured as, for example, the quality, quantity, and the cost per unit of a trip on an Access van, the issuance of a marriage license or building permit, or the response to a 9-1-1 call. The Executive today set a goal of moving the entire government to product-based budgeting within three years.
For the first time, the Executive Proposed Budget is aligned with the King County Strategic Plan, integrating Equity and Social Justice into every aspect of policy and operations.
“We can achieve continued efficiencies and savings by transforming from old models of budgeting and operations to new ways of doing business,” said Executive Constantine. “We are thinking strategically about the outcomes people need, not just the money we put in. By managing the things within our control, we can be ready for the unexpected.”
TRANSIT AND ROADS: Efficiencies alone cannot close shortfalls in the dedicated funds for Transit and Road Services.
Metro Transit created efficiencies that save $143 million a year, but the collapse of the sales taxes that support Metro would have meant gutting 17 percent of bus service. The remedy enacted by the County Council in the two-year Congestion Reduction Charge saves Metro bus service in this budget and the next, but long-term reform of transit financing still resides with the state Legislature.
As announced two weeks ago, inequities in revenues for the Road Levy have compelled the layoff of 81 road workers and other staff in the Road Services Division since the first of the year. The success of growth management and urban annexations has left only 250,000 residents of the unincorporated areas paying into the Road Levy for maintenance of the 1,600 miles of County roads used by 2 million county residents and those driving in from other counties. Road Levy revenues have fallen more than one-third over the past three years. As a consequence, the 2012 budget must propose the reduction of another 30 positions from Road Services in order to live within these sharply reduced revenues.
The Executive today said long-term sustainable funding is needed for both roads and transit, and that any transportation package that emerges from the Governor’s Connecting Washington Task Force must create a statewide solution for deteriorating roads in rural areas as well as for transit needs in urban areas.
STATE BUDGET IMPACTS: The state revenue shortfall of another $1.4 Billion will likely lead to more cuts in state support for the County’s public health and human service funds. While such cuts have the potential to be devastating for the county’s neediest residents, without knowing where they may come the Executive Proposed Budget does not anticipate them.
JOBS AND PROSPERITY: As part of a strategy for generating new wealth and job growth in the region that ensures continued sustainability, the Executive made a supplemental budget request, in support of the state’s aerospace partnership, to position King County as the premier location for Boeing to build the re-engined 737 MAX. The Executive’s budget supports workforce development to train the next generation of aviation builders, and continues a commitment to the regional partnership for cleanup of the Duwamish River and of contaminated properties that could, with redevelopment and reinvestment, support job-producing airplane-part factories, freight facilities, and green manufacturing.
The Executive Proposed Budget builds upon the partnership with labor begun in 2010, when bargaining with organized labor resulted in 90 percent of employees and most of the bargaining units foregoing a cost-of-living adjustment for 2011.
Concurrent with budget transmittal, the Executive launched an upgraded Budget website with unique interactive graphs and charts that enable the public to see how the 2012 budget is aligned with the King County Strategic Plan.
The King County Council plans a number of public hearings on the budget and is set to adopt a final 2011 King County Budget on Nov. 21.
The Executive’s budget address will be carried live on King County TV via streaming video and on Comcast and Broadstripe Cable Channel 22 at the following times:
Monday, Sept. 26
Tuesday, Sept. 27
9:30 a.m. & 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 28
12:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 29
12 noon & 6:00 p.m.