As we develop the budget, it is imperative that we hear from you. Please join us at any or all of the four the public meetings about the 2015-2016 budget that will be held throughout King County.
• Wednesday, October 8 – Fall City—Chief Kanim Middle School (the Commons Area) 32627 SE Redmond-Fall City Rd
• Tuesday, October 14 – Bellevue—City Hall, Council Chambers 450 110th Avenue NE
• Thursday, October 23 – Kent—Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center, Courtroom 3F, 401 Fourth Avenue N
• Wednesday, October 29 – Seattle—King County Courthouse, Council Chambers 10th Flr. 516 Third Ave.
All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. Day-after coverage of the public hearings will be available both online and on King County TV, seen on Comcast and Wave Cable Channel 22. You can also sign up to follow the deliberations on the Council's 2015 Budget page, Facebook and Twitter (#KCBudget).
The Council's 2015-2016 budget deliberations officially kicked-off this week. I am again chairing the Council's Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. This week we heard from the County's separately elected officials – the Elections director, the auditor, judges, the Sheriff, the Prosecutor –about their budget needs. And those needs are great. As a colleague put it, the County has been operating in a "managed bankruptcy" state for many years now. We have an ongoing gap year-to-year between our revenues and the cost of delivering our programs – which simply increase given inflation and population growth. The County's continuing shortfall is made worse by the decline of stable funding for core services.
The state Motor Vehicle Excise Tax was once a steady, progressive funding source for both Public Health and Metro transit. But voters voted to repeal this tax in 1999 and then the Legislature affirmed its repeal in 2000. Since its repeal, county government has been piecemealing funding together and depending on our state's regressive and volatile sales tax.
As Executive Constantine stated in his budget address, just 20 years ago in King County, about 50 percent of every dollar of personal income was spent on items subject to the sales tax; today, that number hovers at only 37 percent. As our population and our incomes grow, our sales tax revenue lags further and further behind.
Because of this, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that our Public Health services and the County's transportation system face devastating cuts in the coming years. Last weekend, Metro implemented its largest set of bus cuts in its history. It's important to remember that potentially cutting more bus services comes at a time when we should be adding more service to meet current demand – more than 500,000 hours of bus service need to be added according to estimates. To better match revenues with expenditures, the Executive proposed cutting 400,000 hours during the biennium. These hours include the hours cut last weekend. During the upcoming budget process, the Council will dedicate a lot of work to looking at Metro's revenues, financial policies and operations to see how we can keep as many buses on the road as fiscally responsible. I will be judging all policy and budget decisions with the same policy principles I have used since the defeat of Prop 1 in April:
• We must run a transit system that is financially sustainable;
• Cuts and service additions must meet the service guidelines which were developed to keep politics out of route decisions; and
• Keeping as many buses on the streets as possible, operating safely and efficiently.
–Seattle & King County is also facing a devastating budget gap. This spring the Department proposed closing four of the County's 10 public health clinics. The clinic at Greenbridge was slated among those for closure. I'm thrilled to share that thanks to a partnership between the County, the City of Seattle and Planned Parenthood, the Clinic will now remain open. White Center families represent diverse backgrounds. These families will now continue to work with Public Health nurses to navigate important issues like nutrition, breastfeeding and physical activity. These are all important components of families raising healthy babies and thriving young children. The Executive and I are committed to working with local jurisdictions and other providers to find solutions to keep more public health clinics open. But even if we are able to find a temporary stop-gap to keep direct services available to those in need, core Public Health functions are at risk. As our concerns over Ebola and this year's measles outbreak show, disease prevention and tracking is imperative to keeping King County residents healthy.
There is no doubt that the County has many tough decisions ahead. My colleagues and I continue to be committed to running the most efficient government possible, so that we can keep more services operating in our communities. I'll be sure to keep you posted as the budget deliberations continue.
Keep in touch,