As the regional government serving some 2.2 million people, King County delivers services and products that meet the diverse needs of the people who live, work, and do business here. Our goal quite simply is to do this better than any other government, to be the best-run government for the communities we serve. Traditional ways of operating cannot meet the challenges we are facing today. Through best-run government, King County is changing the way we work—improving performance, processes, and service delivery to increase equity and respond to our region's changing needs. We are building better systems and processes to consistently monitor and measure our performance so we can deliver results that positively impact the lives of all King County residents.
Exercising good financial stewardship is essential to earn public trust. By implementing robust fiscal policy and financial monitoring systems, we can better evaluate spending, ensuring investment in the most effective programs and services.
Our 2021-2022 Budget focuses on balancing the budget while maintaining vital services for residents and continuing progress on critical priorities such as the environment and advancing the County's Anti-Racism agenda.
Rainy Day Reserve
King County’s Rainy Day fund serves as a savings account to guard against risks like recessions and unexpected expenses like the COVID-19 pandemic response. Through careful financial management and focused attention, King County built its Rainy Day fund savings from $16 million in 2011 to $26 million in 2020.
That savings allowed to King County spend $4.2 million from its savings to ensure critical services for homeless residents were maintained during the pandemic.
A healthy Rainy Day reserve is also critical to maintaining a AAA bond rating.
As part of our commitment to becoming the best-run government, King County prioritizes strong financial management, including maintaining high bond ratings.
Our General Fund reserve, low debt levels, and other strong financial management practices mean that King County has been able to maintain the highest bond ratings from the major rating agencies:
- AAA from Standard & Poor's
- AAA from Fitch
- Aaa from Moody’s
The AAA bond ratings allow King County to finance construction, open space acquisition, and other projects at the lowest possible costs, saving taxpayer dollars. King County is the only county in Washington to receive this rating from all three agencies.
Focus on the Customer
We hear from many people who would like to use public transit but find it difficult to get to a transit stop or station. Challenges are greatest in neighborhoods with a high percentage of low-income people, people of color, and people with limited English proficiency and limited mobility options.
In April 2019, in partnership with Sound Transit, the City of Seattle and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), King County Metro launched Via to Transit, a pilot project aimed at making it more convenient for customers in equity priority neighborhoods to connect with our region’s growing high-capacity fixed-route transit system. Customers in the service areas can use the Via app or call customer support to request a ride to or from select Link light rail stations in southeast Seattle and Tukwila where they can board buses or Link light rail. A critical objective in developing the service was to broaden access to on-demand services, and so the service offers a call center for those without a smartphone or data plan, interpreter services for English language learners, wheelchair accessible vehicles for those with disabilities, reduced fare rates for youth, seniors, low-income, and people with disabilities, and non-credit/debit card options for unbanked customers
The pilot service has provided nearly 300,000 rides to-date – most of which are in equity priority areas. By making it attractive (the average ride rating is 4.8/5 stars) and convenient to get to transit (the average wait time is just 8 minutes), the service makes it easier for people to leave their cars at home and access frequent bus and train service (93% of rides transfer to/from buses and trains). A key component of the pilot has been working to complete a thorough assessment of the service and determine how it can improve – a one year report can be found here.
One thing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made abundantly clear is the absolute need for digital access so all residents and businesses can thrive. Digital equity is a fundamental social justice goal because access to information and technology is essential to fully participating and prospering in our community. Vast numbers of county residents need fast, reliable internet connections for remote work, while our students need it to continue with online learning and others require it for telehealth, to name just a few critical areas. With that backdrop, KCIT has produced a study on broadband access within King County. The study highlights:
- That sustaining vibrant communities must include removing barriers that prevent low-income and rural residents in our community from full and equitable digital engagement.
- Current efforts to leverage community partners to expand capacity and literacy; increase infrastructure options with public/private partners; and promote digital inclusion for all communities.
- Data collection, analysis, findings and recommended solutions across citizen demographics.
KCIT has also provided residents with a tool to find out about broadband access in their own County Council District. As our story map on the study lays out, achieving countywide access to high-speed Internet is crucial to King County’s vision of improving quality of life for present and future generations.
By identifying its broadband gaps, King County has taken an important step toward understanding the scope of the challenge—and identifying potential solutions. In addition, the study underscores the importance of other state and local organizations and their initiatives to expand broadband access. Those partnerships promise to help make high-speed broadband a reality for everyone who lives, works or plays here.