King County Executive’s budget proposal: The toplines

We haven’t broken it out for White Center and the rest of North Highline yet, but for starters, here’s the official news release from King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office regarding his budget proposal unveiled this morning:

Building upon reforms put in place over the past four years, King County Executive Dow Constantine today proposed a balanced 2014 Budget with no new taxes that sustains essential functions and restores some critical services lost in the recession.

“We are reforming from the inside, forging ahead even as other levels of government are paralyzed, to construct local solutions to complex problems,” said Executive Constantine in his annual budget address to the Metropolitan King County Council.

With cities and metropolitan areas fast becoming the engines of innovation, prosperity and social transformation in the United States, the Executive outlined several initiatives for the County to chart its way forward:

· A $500,000 Catalyst Fund to lead the transformation of the regional health and human service system from reactive crisis response to proactive preventive strategies and services. These one-time funds are intended to kick start the best new ideas and advances, attract other investments and revenue sources, and lead to better outcomes, particularly in the treatment of those with mental health and addiction issues.

· A two-year Regional Veterans Initiative to embark upon the first-ever comprehensive mapping of the labyrinth of federal, state and local services for veterans. Programs and community agencies would be connected to a King County Veteran Services Network so that vets seeking services can immediately be directed to the right program, and all agencies can use the same assessment and screening tools. The project is funded with $388,000 from the voter-approved Veterans and Human Services Levy.

· Support for the community-wide campaign to enroll 180,000 uninsured adults who will become newly eligible for free or low-cost health coverage on October 1 under the Affordable Care Act – connecting them to effective preventive care early, rather than expensive treatment later.

Savings and efficiencies

By creating operational efficiencies, the Executive’s reform agenda has saved, over the past four budgets, a cumulative $111 million in the General Fund, including $2.9 million in new savings in the 2014 General Fund.

Other efficiencies created in this budget in both General Fund and non-General Fund agencies include:

· Reducing energy use by replacing outmoded equipment and changing old operating practices has saved $2.7 million a year over the past four years, and earned another $2.8 million in utility rebates.

· Consolidating office space saves $8.6 million over ten years in the General Fund, and nearly $17 million in non-General Fund agencies.

· Consolidating the County’s computer servers, physically and in the Cloud, saves $1.4 million over the next two years.

Restoring some critical services

· Reopening the Sheriff’s Hicks-Raburn Precinct in Maple Valley, bringing Sheriff’s deputies closer to the people they serve, and to have a place in Southeast King County to restore the vital practice of roll calls with the sergeants and deputies.

· Restoring four uniformed officers in the Sheriff’s Office: three patrol deputies and a sergeant.

· Funding at current levels for prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, and aid for victims.

· Restoring counter service over the noon hour at the Superior Court Clerk’s Office in Kent and in Seattle, so that customers can once again file a document or view court cases when they were free during lunch time.

Budget overview

With the continued transition to a biennial, two-year budget for nearly all agencies except those in the General Fund and a few others, the published total budget for 2013/2014 that includes all funds dedicated to specific purposes is a hybrid annual/biennial number of $9.0 Billion. On an annual basis, spending in 2014 is expected to be about the same $4.5 Billion as in 2013.

The proposed General Fund budget for 2014 is $714.4 million, an increase of 4.2 percent from $685.3 million in 2013. Inflation plus the cost of population growth account for 3.1 percent of that increase. Nearly all the remainder is attributable to the transition to a new Department of Public Defense, which was driven by a class-action lawsuit and state Supreme Court ruling, and the addition of contract work paid for by the City of Seattle and the State of Washington.

As a consequence of the severely constrained revenues authorized for counties, and despite having aggressively controlled costs in partnership with employees and unions, the Executive said that General Fund revenues are expected to fall short of the cost of services by about $36 million dollars in the 2015/2016 biennium, with a further gap of about $16 million dollars in the subsequent biennium. Most of the $36 million dollar gap arises because revenue sources for counties are based on only a property tax and a sales tax, both of which are strictly limited for counties under state law.

All County agencies will complete the move to biennial budgeting for 2015/2016, so this 2014 Budget represents the last annual budget to be developed by King County.

The Metropolitan King County Council plans a number of public hearings on the budget and is set to adopt a final King County Budget in November./blockquote>

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