King County proposed two year $9 billion budget has no new taxes, restores some services

Information from King County

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.

The Executive’s budget address can be seen in its entirety on King County TV via streaming video at www.kingcounty.gov/kctv and on Comcast and Broadstripe Cable Channel 22 at the following times:

Monday, Sept. 23
7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 24
9:30 a.m. & 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 25
12:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 26
12 noon & 6:00 p.m.

The 2014 Proposed Budget focuses on funds and agencies with annual budgets for 2013, including the General Fund, Public Health, the Parks Division of the Department of Natural Resources and Parks, and a few internal service agencies. The 2014 Annual Executive Proposed budget is $1.8 million. King County is in the process of gradually moving to a biennial (two-year) budget. Most funds and agencies have biennial budgets for 2013/2014 that were adopted in November 2012. With few exceptions, no changes to these biennial budgets are proposed at this time.

Proposed Budget Highlights
The total 2014 Proposed General Fund Budget is $714.4 million with 4,294 FTEs which includes the addition of 336 public defenders.

The 2014 Proposed Budget funds most County programs at 2013 levels and includes a small number of service restorations and new initiatives.

The long term financial outlook of the General Fund has improved over the past five years primarily as a result of reducing the cost growth curve from approximately 5.0 to 3.5 percent annually.
Some significant proposals in the 2014 budget include:

The Maple Valley Precinct is reopened. This precinct, which serves the southeastern portion of King County, was closed two years ago as part of a new deployment approach for the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). However, Sheriff John Urquhart requested that it be reopened because alternative facilities, including holding cells, have not been available.

Four additional uniformed staff are added to the KCSO. Sheriff’s staffing has been significantly reduced over the last decade. The 2014 Proposed Budget includes funding for three new patrol deputies and a sergeant. It also includes funding for a public records manager to ensure the Sheriff’s Office provides timely and complete responses to such requests.

The next phase of the Health and Human Potential (HHP) transformation plan is implemented. Health and human services are currently delivered in a decentralized manner that often requires clients to navigate a complex array of providers and locations. The HHP transformation effort is a joint endeavor of King County and many service providers to develop a more client-centric model for service delivery.

Several additional positions are included in the 2014 Proposed Budget to broaden the application of Lean. A wide variety of Lean activities have been conducted in 2012 and 2013. Perhaps the most notable recent project was the psychiatric services array project conducted by the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) and the Jail Health Services Division of Public Health. Staff from these agencies collaborated to review how to best serve patients in the jail with psychiatric issues. The team determined that a net of about $1.2 million could be saved while actually improving service to the inmate-patients. Other Lean efforts have resulted in service improvements rather than cost savings, including faster processing of licenses and faster tabulation of election ballots.

Staffing is provided for the Regional Veterans Initiative. King County is the home of about 127,000 veterans. Services for these veterans are often uncoordinated and hard to access. Earlier in 2013, Executive Constantine called for an effort to better link these services and asked three prominent veterans to lead a planning effort toward that end.

Several steps to advance the “Employer of the Future” work are funded. Employer of the Future is an effort to develop human resources policies, employment practices, and labor contracts that reflect best practices in this era. This is an outgrowth of the KCSP’s “Quality Workforce” goal.

MIDD programs are continued. The Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Fund is supported by a 0.1 percent sales tax. It funds a variety of human service and criminal justice programs to assist people with mental illnesses or drug dependency.

Courthouse services hours are restored. As part of the significant budget reductions required in 2011, the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) eliminated service counter hours during lunchtime. The 2014 Proposed Budget restores partial noontime services at the King County Courthouse and the Maleng Regional Justice Center.

Learn more about the 2014/2015 Executive Proposed budget at www.kingcounty.gov/budget

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