Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Add deputies and bump taxes a bit, executive proposes

Dave Somers’ Snohomish County budget proposal also would address traffic problems in neighborhoods.

EVERETT — Snohomish County would add five sheriff’s deputies and stave off most law enforcement cuts next year, with the help of a small property-tax bump, in a budget plan released Thursday.

County Executive Dave Somers’ $252 million operating budget would set aside more money for programs to ease neighborhood traffic problems and to help connect military veterans with public assistance. It also would allow the planning department to hire another code-enforcement officer.

“The budget I present today is fair, balanced and puts an emphasis on our key priorities,” Somers told a couple of hundred county employees who gathered for his speech.

The proposed operating budget is about $13 million higher than in 2017. Following recent trends, more than 70 percent of that money would go toward salaries and benefits. Public safety functions, including law enforcement, the courts and the jail, account for more than three-quarters of discretionary spending.

Highlights from the executive’s proposal include:

• Replacing outdated laptops for sheriff’s deputies and providing other technology upgrades for law enforcement.

• Adding about $200,000 to the county’s Veterans Assistance Fund, which provides housing, counseling and other forms of emergency assistance to eligible veterans. Total funding for the program would exceed $1 million.

• Launching an initiative to address gridlock on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis and build more sidewalks, especially near schools. That includes hiring another long-range planner and looking for better ways to serve fast-growing unincorporated areas, such as North Creek.

• Continuing a county program to streamline efficiency and provide better customer service.

• Expanding a program that teams up social workers and sheriff’s deputies to north Snohomish County, through a partnership with the city of Arlington.

• Bulking up cash reserves, to strengthen the county’s bond rating and rainy day fund.

While avoiding layoffs, Somers’ plan would cut vacant positions: six from the Denney Juvenile Justice Center, which is being restructured, and 12 from the sheriff’s work-release program, which was disbanded at the beginning of the year.

The county, by law, must pass a balanced budget.

County tax rolls are expected to grow somewhat, thanks to a building boom. But that’s not enough to offset a structural deficit. Salaries, benefits and other costs are rising faster than government revenues.

Medical benefit costs for Snohomish County government employees have been increasing about 7 percent per year, county finance director Nathan Kennedy said. Salaries for most of the county workforce are set to rise 2.5 percent next year, under the terms of union contracts.

Meanwhile, Snohomish County continues to have one of the fastest-growing populations in the country. It’s been adding about 40 people per day or 16,000 per year. About six in 10 of the new residents have landed in unincorporated areas, where the county is responsible for public safety, road construction and managing building activity.

The county population hovers around 790,000, with about 44 percent living outside cities.

To cover expenses, Somers is recommending a hike in the county’s general levy, to generate an extra $3.5 million next year. It would cost an extra $11.32 per year, or roughly 94 cents per month, for the owner of a home assessed at the countywide average of nearly $336,000.

Property owners in unincorporated areas also will see an increase in the roads levy, to the tune of $4.78. That works out to about 40 cents per month. It would raise another $623,000 for road and bridge projects.

General county services historically have made up a little more than 8 percent of homeowners’ overall property-tax bill. That’s similar to the percentage most pay toward fire protection and EMS. More than half of those taxes go toward schools. Smaller amounts pay for libraries and hospitals. The county roads levy in unincorporated areas amounts to about 5.6 percent of the total.

Separate from the county, a new state property tax is set to kick in next year to pay for education. That’s likely to add another $272 dollars or so to the average tax bill.

Somers’ proposed 2018 budget would fund 2,924 positions, up from 2,866 now. Most of the 58 new jobs would be funded through contracts with other agencies or by fee-supported departments run separately from the operating budget.

Total county revenues next year, including grants and nondiscretionary funds, are projected at $930 million.

It’s up to the five members of the County Council to review and amend Somers’ plan. The council typically passes a budget before Thanksgiving.

County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan said he hopes to have an open dialogue with the executive about any changes.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we know how to bury the hatchet, we know how to move the ball forward,” Sullivan said during introductory remarks before Somers released his budget.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lynnwood
Lynnwood police shoot at man during pursuit

The man is wanted on multiple warrants, including one for attempted murder, according to police. No one was hurt.

The “Village of Hope,” a tiny home community including 17 shelters, is set to open on Mission Hill Road in Tulalip in September. (Tulalip Tribes)
Tulalip Tribes to open tiny home village with 17 shelters

It’s called the Village of Hope. Monthly culture nights will feature classes in Lushootseed and “Tulalip cooking.”

Everett
Man shot at Everett apartment

The man in his 30s was shot Sunday night. No arrests had been made.

Arlington Public Works employees use The Big Sidewalk Sucker to lift a concrete panel from the sidewalk. The device saves the city some money and time to level ground below the concrete. (Arlington Public Works)
This thing sucks and helps repair sidewalks in Arlington

Public works crews can remove heavy concrete panels from sidewalks, so the ground underneath can be restored.

United Way of Snohomish County CEO Craig Chambers at their headquarters on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New CEO expected to reinvigorate United Way of Snohomish County

The nonprofit lost staff and funding during the pandemic. Craig Chambers wants to turn things around.

New LGI Homes on Thursday, May 12, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Red-hot housing market cools, a bit, in Snohomish County

The amount of housing inventory is rising. Demand is slowing. Higher mortgage rates are a cause.

John McKeon stands in front of a mobile headquarters vehicle while discussing the funding needs of Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at the search and rescue headquarters in Snohomish, Washington. McKeon said a priority for the group is to find money for new covered parking for a number of vehicles that do not have a garage to be parked in. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue wants rescuing

They’re asking for nearly $1 million in federal recovery dollars, but funding has been hard to come by.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How to answer Snohomish County’s basic crime questions? ‘Transparent data’

An initiative funded in part by Microsoft could reveal racial disparities, while creating an “apples to apples” database.

Everett Code Enforcement issued a violation citation to the owner of the Grand Apartments building at 2331 Rockefeller Ave., after allegedly finding exposed electrical wiring and evidence of unpermitted electrical and plumbing work. (City of Everett)
Grand Apartments, which saw outcry from tenants, faces code violations

The Everett complex has had its share of issues. Now the city is threatening fines if something isn’t done.

Most Read