King County Council adopts 2012 budget

The King County Council unanimously adopted its 2012 budget on Wednesday, with the council placing an emphasis on continuing its “proactive approach to reforming county government while protecting vulnerable populations and increasing the focus on county roads.”

According to the county, the $5.2 billion budget includes $650 million for the General Fund, of which 76 percent will be committed towards public safety and criminal justice programs. The County also touts that “even in the midst of the Great Recession, the adopted budget continues to protect the County’s AAA bond rating by not using the County’s cash reserves or tapping the rainy day fund.”

Budget chairwoman Julia Patterson was pleased with the budget being adopted ahead of schedule and also with the fact it continues to fund programs that help the most vulnerable people in King County.

“For the second year in a row, we have been able to produce a county budget ahead of our projected schedule,” she said. “This budget responds to the most basic human needs of those struggling from the recession, as nearly 190,000 King County residents are now living below the federal poverty line. It is also a budget that builds upon efficiencies and creates transparency within County government, while continuing reforms that help the County work smarter, use fewer resources and increase the value of its services.”

Councilwoman Kathy Lambert said she was happy with the budget’s attention to County roads.

“As the Councilmember with the largest unincorporated area, this budget calls for a redirection of the County’s Road Service Division towards maintenance of the County road system and reducing administration,” Lambert said. “Reducing management positions will increase workers in the field, a realignment that puts additional personnel on the road to help with snow removal and snow response.”

The theme for the 2012 budget was “Tackling Reality, Continuing Reform.” One area that the council differed from King County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposal was in providing funding for basic human needs. According to the County, “instead of having human service funds allocated through a County Request for Proposal (RFP) process, the council has allocated $1 million in one-time funds to be split equally between three regional organizations that work directly with essential programs assisting those in need.”

The three areas are food, shelter and safety. The County indicates the agency Food Lifeline will work with and allocate funds to programs that deal with addressing hunger in King County, while the YWCA will distribute funds for homeless programs. Safety relates to domestic violence and it’s effects, and the funding will be distributed through the King County Coalition against Domestic Violence.

The council was on board with Constantine’s idea of LEAN positions, which aim at finding ways to be more efficient in day-to-day operations. The 2012 budget will contain funds for educating county employees about LEAN and how it can be utilized within various departments.

“We continue reforming how the county does business by reducing health care costs, providing predictable rates for building permits, utilizing the LEAN program and creating online filing for tax appeals. Innovative reforms such as these help maintain our AAA bond rating that puts more taxpayer money back into services,” said councilwoman Jane Hague. “This budget exemplifies how good fiscal policy and collaboration can carry a local government through a challenging economy.”

Councilman Pete Von Reichbauer said the 2012 budget addresses the challenges facing King County, while remaining fair.

“This budget reflects the challenging economic climate facing all of King County’s citizens,” he said. “In the end, we have created a fair and humane budget while confronting the tough decision(s) for our future.”

While the council expressed it’s happiness with the easy adoption of the 2012 budget, the looming issues that will come down from the State budget, namely the cutting of an additional $2 billion, were still on their minds.

“The results of the upcoming special session held by the state Legislature will have a direct impact on King County in 2012,” Patterson said. “While we should be proud of the work we have achieved in balancing our own County budget this year, we must prepare for the reality of looming state budget cuts that could mean a dramatic blow to the county’s most basic services moving forward.”

Council chairman Larry Gossett also views the upcoming cuts from the state budget as cause for concern for King County and it’s residents.

“King County continues to be indebted to our employees for finding and implementing efficiencies that save us money and provide excellent resources even with a reduced workforce,” said Gossett. “However, as this economic crisis continues, King County will not be sustainable if we do not find new revenues, especially in light of the impending federal and state cuts that impact King County’s budget directly.”


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