EVERETT — Some Snohomish County Council members plan to scrutinize raises awarded to top managers in Executive John Lovick’s administration as part of the ongoing 2015 budget process.
The 10 percent increases for about a dozen employees total about $150,000 or so in Lovick’s proposed operating budget of $230 million. While that’s a small piece of the financial picture, the pay hikes have sparked a policy debate among council members over fairness and the validity of the raises under county code.
With union contracts for most of the county’s nearly 2,800-person workforce set to expire at the end of this year, the raises also promise to make for some interesting negotiations.
“The raises they got, they’re really in front of us in this budget,” Council Chairman Dave Somers said this week. “We’re letting the executive’s office know that we’ll be dealing with them separately.”
This year’s budget has been more contentious than last fall, when the council adopted Lovick’s spending plan with few revisions. Changes since then include Somers assuming the chairmanship from Councilwoman Stephanie Wright and two new faces on the council, Ken Klein and Terry Ryan, who took over for term-limited predecessors.
Last year, the council voted 4-1 to approve a budget that increased the average homeowner’s tax bill by about $20. The extra taxes are paying for a future $162 million courthouse. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.
Lovick, a Democrat who was appointed executive, is running in the Nov. 4 election to keep his job for the remaining year of an unexpired term. His Republican opponent, Carolyn Eslick, has been critical of the raises and other spending decisions in Lovick’s administration.
Lovick has recommended increasing the county’s general property-tax levy next year by the 1 percent allowed under state law. Roads and conservation futures levies would increase by the same percentage.
Combined, those increases would add $6.78 — about 57 cents per month — to next year’s property-tax bill for the owner of a home assessed at the countywide average of $244,600.
Those estimates from the executive’s office include only the county’s portion of the bill, not the fire or school-district levies that make up the bulk of property taxes.
Factoring in fees, grants and other sources of government income, Lovick’s administration expects to handle about $885 million in total revenue next year.
The proposed budget anticipates 2,789 positions, 14 more than last year.
A complicated financial issue facing county leaders involves coping with the effects of the Oso mudslide. The county has spent about $25 million responding to the disaster and helping the Stillaguamish Valley rebuild.
While the federal and state governments could reimburse a combined 87.5 percent of the cost, the county has set aside $2 million to cover its share. It’s up to the Legislature when it convenes next year to approve the state’s portion.
The county typically adopts its final budget in December.
The council expects to approve its version of the budget Nov. 24, the Monday before Thanksgiving. After that, Lovick will have the opportunity to approve or veto any changes.
Key meetings about Snohomish County’s 2015 budget:
*Nov. 5, at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. — County Council hearings on county executive’s proposed 2015 budget in council chambers on the eighth floor of the county’s Robert J. Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett
*Nov. 24, 10:30 a.m. — Final hearing on the County Council’s proposed budget, in council chambers. The executive has 10 days after receiving the council’s plan to sign or veto it.
To share your thoughts about Snohomish County’s proposed 2015 budget, email the County Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.