Our work on the annual budget is among the most important of our responsibilities in Snohomish County government.
Last month, the council-approved 2018 budget went into law. The budget process began in September when Executive Dave Somers delivered his budget proposal to the County Council. The executive’s proposed budget included a property tax increase of 4 percent and prioritized public safety with the addition of five new sheriff’s deputies. Council Chairman Brian Sullivan proposed a budget that included a property tax increase of 2 percent.
Throughout the budget process, I maintained a position opposing an increase to the tax burden on county residents. In November, the County Council met to consider and take action on the 2018 budget. The 2 percent property tax increase proposal was defeated 3-2. My proposal to adopt no increase in property taxes was considered next and earned support from Council Members Stephanie Wright and Sam Low.
That meant approximately $1.8 million needed to be found in spending cuts from the proposed budget. I offered 12 amendments to cut spending. Other council members also offered amendments for cuts. Following passage of each of these amendments, the 2018 budget was approved.
My biggest priorities for the budget were public safety and finding solutions to the opioid epidemic. The budget that was passed includes $100,000 toward addiction treatment and five new deputies. One of the deputies will team with the Arlington and Marysville police departments and embedded social workers from Snohomish County Human Services.
I have been working with Arlington, Marysville and the sheriff’s office for months on this effort, and I am glad that we were able to include the program in the budget. This program, which has proved to be successful in other areas of the county, teams officers with social workers who go into homeless encampments and connect individuals with services and treatment options. The focus will be the Smokey Point region where the needs are greatest with regard to homelessness and drug abuse.
The goal is not only to connect individuals in need with treatment or other services, but also to decrease crime. The end product of our work on the budget is a disciplined spending plan that prioritizes public safety and improves the quality of life for county residents without raising property taxes. This budget was the result of a lot of hard work.
We look forward to getting to work on moving Snohomish County forward in 2018.
Nate Nehring represents District 1 on the Snohomish County Council, which includes Arlington and Marysville. His column runs monthly. Contact: Nate.Nehring@snoco.org.