EVERETT — It’s that time of the year when Snohomish County’s elected officials push much of their normal work to a back burner and turn their attention to next year’s budget.
County Executive Dave Somers is set to kick off the public part of that process Thursday when he unveils his spending plan for 2018. From there, the County Council gets a crack at reworking his proposals, a task they usually finish by Thanksgiving.
“Obviously, public safety is going to be a top priority for the County Council,” Council Chairman Brian Sullivan said last week, as he awaited his first look at the executive’s proposal.
The county was on generally solid financial footing midway through the year. Long-term structural problems remain — namely, that salaries, benefits and other expenses for running the government are rising faster than revenues.
Finance director Nathan Kennedy briefed the council last week on the financial picture for the first half of 2017.
“For the most part, revenues are following pretty close to what we expected,” he said.
That includes property and sales taxes, as well as various fees the county collects. That’s perhaps not surprising at a time when the county enjoys a healthy unemployment rate of 4 percent.
One exception is the jail, which is bringing in less money than forecast from contracts with cities that pay to house inmates.
On the other side of the ledger, the county as a whole has been keeping costs in check.
“Departments are holding tight on their budgets,” Kennedy said.
The current operating budget approaches $239 million. More than 70 percent goes toward salaries and benefits. Public safety functions, including law enforcement, the courts and the jail, account for more than 76 percent of the total.
The council last fall passed the budget unanimously, with a special effort to stave off law-enforcement cuts after the failure of a public safety levy earlier that year.
The county manages $888 million in total revenues, including grants and other non-discretionary funds. This year’s budget provides for 2,864 employee positions.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NWhaglund.