Snohomish County approves 2019 budget

Public safety, affordable housing, economic development, and fiscal accountability are top priorities.

Last month, the Snohomish County Council unanimously approved the county’s budget for 2019, prioritizing public safety, housing affordability, economic development, and fiscal responsibility.

The total general fund budget is about $263.64 million. The total of all budgets — including general fund, roads fund and enterprise funds — is about $983 million.

“I am proud of the budget we approved today, because we were able to focus on issues that matter to our residents, while spending our resources carefully. We were able to address public safety issues, economic development, affordable housing options, and combat homelessness,” said Council chair Stephanie Wright in a county press release, the day the budget was approved. “I appreciate the hard work and passion of my council colleagues and the unprecedented collaboration with the executive. Council continued to work closely with the executive after he delivered his proposed budget, resulting in additional opportunities to invest in important priorities such as adding new deputies and establishing a gang unit within the sheriff’s office. By working together this year, we increased transparency to the process and produced a better final budget.”

In the release, county Executive Dave Somers added, “I look forward to signing the budget as quickly as possible. We delivered on our highest priorities: public safety, creating jobs, providing more affordable housing, and getting the county’s finances on stable footing. I want to thank the County Council and countless county employees who all came together as a team. We want to build on this success and continue delivering exceptional service for our residents.”

Terry Ryan, council vice chair, said he is proud to champion a budget that invests in the county’s responsibilities and keeps neighborhoods safe.

“Our budget continues our efforts to stabilize the county’s finances while increasing public safety and investing in our infrastructure,” he said in the release.

County councilmember Brian Sullivan added in the release, “It was critical that we include the revenue stabilization fund and other key elements of our fiscal health. If we want to continue making progress on public safety, human services, and our other key priorities, the finances of the county must be kept on a solid foundation.”

Councilmember Sam Low said he is excited that the budget targets key transportation needs and ensures Snohomish County is ready for the start of commercial service next year

“Our commuters need us to think creatively about resolving the most pressing transportation needs in the county, and this budget is a good start,” he said in the release.

“Our partnership in developing the budget was a good model for moving the county forward,” added councilmember Nate Nehring in the release. “To invest in our key priorities while avoiding a general fund tax increase is the surest sign that we are providing what the public expects and needs.”

Public safety

The county’s continuing focus on public safety, includes five new deputies, two dedicated to a new gang task force.

According to the release, there will be a new program to embed a detective in the prosecuting attorney’s office to focus on domestic violence cases. Two million dollars will go toward starting work on a new south precinct building for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office (or revenue stabilization depending on Council action). Funds will also help improve technology for deputies in the SCSO.

In addition, the budget helps the Office of Pubic Defense ensure the justice system is fair for all by increasing funding for certain public safety costs. The budget also continues the county’s approach to the opioid epidemic.

Neighbors in need

The release states that the county has directed an additional $300,000 toward affordable housing for the homeless, a key area for reducing suffering and improving public safety.

“We have also carried forward an additional $1 million from the 2018 budget for efforts to address homelessness,” the release states.

In order to help they county’s neediest residents — including seniors, veterans, at-risk youth and others — the budget provides additional capacity for the Department of Human Services to manage more grant dollars from funding agencies.

Fiscal responsibility

The county budget provides an additional $2.3 million toward stabilizing the county’s risk management fund balance, the release states. This ensures the county can easily handle any unexpected costs next year. Next year, the county moves closer to the targeted fund balance of 14 percent, providing capacity should the economy turn.

The budget also invests $1.68 million in the revenue stabilization fund to help minimize revenue shortfalls during economic downturns, according to the release.

Making the county work

The 2019 budget ensures county technology continues to provide the necessary services to the public and county staff.

“We will continue with our STEP Initiative to improve our operations and give our employees the tools they need to succeed,” the release states.

Transportation

Next year’s county budget includes a $134.9 million investment in county roads as well as seed money of $1.5 million for State Route 2, State Route 522, and other key transportation projects to address congestion, according to the release.

Economic development

The budget also continues Snohomish County’s focus on diversifying its economy, improving its attractiveness for foreign investors and targeting economic development opportunities — including the Boeing NMA — the release states.

The 2019 general fund budget does not raise the county’s general fund tax levy amount and prepares for the inevitable downturn in the economy, according to the release.

Also according to the release, next year will have a number of major milestones for the county, including the expected start of commercial air service from Paine Field, the start of Boeing’s management of the Future of Flight Aviation Center and progress on the courthouse project. The 2019 budget allows all of these important projects to continue.

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