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County Council budget takes no property tax hike

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — County Council Chair Brian Sullivan’s budget retains much money for public safety, but does not take up the County Executive’s proposed property tax increase.
The county council chose to take no property tax increase.
The reasoning was in part because parts of the county will see hits from Sound Transit 3’s tax, and most of the county will see property taxes increase for schools.
The County Council adopted the budget after numerous amendments last week 5-0.
Sullivan’s budget had previously called for a 2 percent property tax increase versus Executive Somers’ 4 percent increase. Somers’ plan asked for an additional $11.32 in property taxes for the owner of an average-valued house next year.
An average-valued house for the county is calculated by the county at approximately $330,000.
A 10-day clock is ticking for Somers to approve or veto the council’s budget. The County Council and County Executive will need to reconcile budgets by the end of the year to pass a final version.
Sullivan’s budget calls for a little less to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, but that adjustment equals a less than 1 percent shift in the big picture. Both Sullivan’s and Somers’ budgets devote $61 million toward
the sheriff’s office’s main budget, and above $50 million for the
corrections bureau.
Both versions of the budget allocate hiring five more deputies in the sheriff’s office.
Sullivan’s budget provides a $1 million increase for housing the homeless as allowed by state law. The money comes from using Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) money. 
A second allocation for homeless housing is for Everett’s low-barrier housing project. A stipulation the council put on this funding is that the money will only be released only after an agreement between the county and Everett’s administration is solidified.
Sullivan’s budget also increases the Planning and Development Services budget by $2.5 million and increases its staff size by about one dozen people. Four additional people at the permitting counter represents the largest increase. The structural review team would be consolidated into permitting.
Most of Sullivan’s budget adjustments prune back vacant positions in places such as the finance department and human resources department. It also rejects Somers’ proposal to add a public records disclosure employee.
In a recent newsletter, County Councilman Sam Low highlighted that the council budget funds many projects for District 5 which encompasses Snohomish and the Sky Valley. 
Among the projects is allocating $350,000 funding toward a Centennial Trail connection between Snohomish and Monroe. Somers’ budget proposes funding the trail work beginning in 2021 instead of Sullivan’s proposal for this year. The trail could cost around $3 million.
Somers’ budget provides $1 million in REET funds toward the Centennial Trail extension south to King County, something which
Sullivan kept in the County Council’s larger park projects budget.
Low also achieved a budget adjustment that doubles the county’s donation to the Monroe nonprofit Take the Next Step to $20,000.
Sullivan’s budget also calls for studying a ramp meter on state Route 522 at eastbound Echo Lake Road interchange ramp and the feasibility of constructing a westbound state Route 522 slip ramp off Yew Way.
The council’s budget also provides the Snohomish Health District $2 per person in unincorporated county toward the health agency’s coffers; Somers’ budget used a calculated $1.92 per head contribution. Because of population, the county’s contribution is the largest amount by
far for cities and municipalities giving the health district a per-person financial boost.
The county must pass a budget by Dec. 31 or the county government shuts down. There is no overt risk of that.


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