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County Executive’s budget doesn’t continue grant for opioid programs

Final public hearing
There is one last public hearing to speak up on the county budget. It will be Wednesday, Nov. 19* at 10:30 a.m. at the County Council’s chambers at the county campus at 3000 Rockefeller Ave. in Everett.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — County Executive Dave Somers’ proposed 2019 budget was a collaborative effort that the County Council could go forward on with few adjustments.
Somers’ proposed budget prioritizes public safety, doesn’t increase property taxes and has no layoffs.
It also seeds money toward creating a trade school to bolster the workforce.
Somers said in prepared remarks in unveiling the budget late last month that it “is not just about dollars and cents. It’s about our priorities. Our values.”
Through listening, “we have heard about housing affordability, education, the needs of our seniors, transportation, our beautiful parks, opioids, and all the other issues that the public most cares about. These priorities from our community are reflected in the budget I present today,” Somers said in a Sept. 25 address.
The strong economy has let the budget grow. The executive’s proposed total 2019 budget is $983,128,172, which is $50 million more than 2018 but a full $200 million more than 2017’s $777,391,436 total budget.
Airline service at Paine Field is expected to bolster it further in 2019, but the budget doesn’t presume revenue from flights, Somers’ spokesman Kent Patton said.
On public safety, the county is working to have cities build their efforts in fighting the opioid problem through a workgroup between the county, Snohomish Health District and sheriff’s office in late 2017 called the Multi-Agency Coordination Group. The budget also expands the sheriff’s office’s Office of Neighborhoods and installs a diversion counselor in the prosecutor’s office to brainstorm strategies from the judicial front.
One item Somers’ budget doesn’t fund is a $100,000 request from the Snohomish Health District to continue opioid prevention and treatment work using the county’s one-tenth of 1 percent tax designated for chemical dependence and mental health programs.
The grant money paid for this summer’s one-week data snapshot of opioid overdoses that made regional headlines; maintained the Snohomish Overdose Prevention website; and provided opioid misuse prevention and pain management training to at least 100 medical providers among other tasks, Snohomish Health District spokeswoman Heather Thomas explained.
Overall, Somers’ budget provides $2.27 million to the health district. A Health District spreadsheet shows the county’s overall contribution has slowly declined since 2011, barring the extra $100,000 bump in 2018 that may go away.
The County Council began discussing the budget earlier this month to revise, ratify or reject it by December. There shouldn’t be infighting between legislators and the executive: Council Chair Stephanie Wright and Councilman Nate Nehring collaborated closely with the executive to shape the budget, which Somers said resulted in a “bipartisan” budget.
Revenue on paper in the proposed budget is up $100 million from 2017, and tax revenue is up $15 million, and this is the county’s income.
The general budget for day to day operations is $262,896,992.
Law and justice costs — from 390 deputies to 360 jail employees to almost 200 lawyers — comprise 76 percent of the general budget now. This budget component crossed 60 percent after 2013. The law and justice sector is separate from human services, which also grew.
Another county initiative is a refreshed commitment to streamlined customer service; Somers highlighted the county permit process recently going paperless as an achievement and bellwether for changes in 2019. Somers’ STEP program applies “lean” processes from the corporate world for county purposes.
For example, the 2019 budget cuts down on buying supplies by $2 million compared to 2017’s budget.
Importantly, Somers’ budget doesn’t bank on any ballot measures to fund county projects.
Instead, some projects use Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funds collected from house and property sales. The budget invests $1 million from REET, and proposes to use $2 million from REET in 2020, toward homeless housing. Overall, REET would pay for $24 million in county projects in 2019.
In smaller spending items, Somers’ budget also gives $66,000 more toward the county arts fund, a 39 percent increase for an account that usually spends less than $250,000 a year. His budget also clips $251,000 from historic preservation within parks, which takes away about one-third of this effort’s budget.
In the three public input hearings on the budget these past two weeks, two speakers have spoken up for more money for the county’s Veterans Assistance Fund, and a handful of people spoke against Surface Water Management fee increases. Another asked for more funding for salmon habitat restoration to help Orca whales.
A balanced budget must be approved before Dec. 31 by state law. The County Council may be on track to conclude its work well before then.


* - Correction: The date is corrected.


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