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County Executive’s proposed budget adds SCSO body cameras, avoids layoffs and braces for 2021

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — County Executive Dave Somers’ 2021 budget aims to be resourceful since 2020 left little to work from.
Somers is proposing a $1.05 billion budget, down by $55 million from the budget adopted last year.
The County Council will spend the next seven weeks discussing the budget, concluding with a vote perhaps around Thanksgiving.
During this year, the county set a hiring freeze, used furloughs, and cut most discretionary spending.
The cuts helped save $19 million toward preparing for 2021’s budget, Somers said. Most of the county’s departments trimmed their spending by an average of 2%.
The 2021 budget isn’t stagnant, though.
For one, Somers calls for introducing body cameras in the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. How many deputies will get one is not known, but it won’t be everybody.
Additionally, the budget funds an Office of Social Justice to pursue making the county government anti-racist and to diversify the workforce.
“We have an opportunity to model what anti-racism and equity look like for communities just like ours across the country,” Somers said in his address.
Somers also wants to bunch together the departments for parks, recreation, tourism, surface water, agriculture and salmon issues into a new Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. County parks director Tom Teigen will lead it.
Strategizing against climate change will be one goal for the new, bigger department.
“I’m excited by the opportunities ahead of us,” Somers said during his budget address Tuesday, Sept. 29.
County Sheriff Adam Fortney applauded the budget: “If there was any community concern that his recommended budget would defund our office, I think those worries can be put to rest,” Fortney wrote online.
The Sheriff’s Office’s funding got shaved by a hair — a 2% reduction overall. Its budget for its Corrections Bureau — the jail —grew a bit.
Somers described the 2021 budget as conservative to avoid having to recalibrate it six months from now.
“I will do everything in my power to avoid layoffs,” Somers said.
During 2020, the county took “a whole number of smaller steps to ward off layoffs,” Somers said during a press meeting with reporters.
Somers’ budget allocates $30 million, or nearly two-thirds, less toward capital projects versus last year’s budget. The money pays for things like building roads and parks.
Overall, Somers proposes a general fund budget that is $4.2 million smaller than 2020’s budget, or 1.6% smaller than 2020. It stands at $264 million in his budget.
The general fund, for day-to-day operations, perhaps best demonstrates the belt-tightening the county has done. It makes for 25% of the whole county budget.
In his address, Somers praised the county’s work done on COVID-19: The Emergency Coordination Center obtained “over 23.2 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE)” and the county’s Nourishing Neighborhoods program, for getting food to families in need, so far has delivered meals to 3,600 low-income families countywide.

County project highlights
No county funding is dedicated toward the Eastside Rail Corridor. The corridor extends the Centennial Trail from the City of Snohomish to the King County border.
A narrative on this says the whole project will cost more than $70 million to complete. It might involve a public bond measure to fund it.
Additionally, the parks plan dedicates no immediate, additional funding toward a trail from Snohomish to Everett (near Lowell).

 

  

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