Snohomish County administration buildings are seen Thursday in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Snohomish County administration buildings are seen Thursday in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Snohomish County budget shortfall could top $26 million

Officials are considering a hiring freeze and other steps to offset the pandemic’s economic impacts.

EVERETT — Snohomish County is weighing a hiring freeze and other belt-tightening as officials grapple with an impending revenue shortfall that could exceed $26 million.

The county’s roughly $260 million general fund budget may need to be slashed by 10% or more to offset the financial blows of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Friday news release from the county.

“These are unique times, and they call for preemptive action on the part of Snohomish County,” county Executive Dave Somers said in a statement. “With so many people thrust out of work and many industries shutting down, we cannot have business-as-usual in the county.”

A budget analysis pegged the fiscal impact of the crisis at $24 million — the equivalent of pay and benefits for about 220 county employees.

But the estimates are very preliminary, county spokesman Kent Patton stressed..

Sales tax revenue, which will take a hit during the economic downturn, accounts for more than $70 million of the county’s general fund budget.

On Wednesday, the County Council will consider two hiring freeze proposals. One would last through the end of the year and make a wide range of exceptions, including positions within the sheriff’s office and prosecuting attorney’s office. Another, which would last 60 days, makes no explicit exceptions but outlines a process for the council to fill any vacancies that are “fiscally sustainable and necessary.”

“This is one of the best and quickest ways to belt-tighten,” said Councilwoman Megan Dunn, who supports the 60-day hiring freeze proposal. “We’re also hoping to avoid any layoffs.”

The two-month hiring freeze would allow the county to revisit the measure when staff get a better picture of how the coronavirus crisis will affect the bottom line, said council Chairman Nate Nehring, who proposed the 60-day measure.

“Right now, we’re just looking at estimates or projections for what our revenue shortfalls are going to look like,” Nehring said. “But we’ll actually have some data in 60 days.”

Councilman Sam Low also expressed support for Nehring’s proposal at a recent meeting.

Councilwoman Stephanie Wright, who introduced the proposal for the hiring freeze that would last through the end of the year, said she incorporated the exceptions because she wants to ensure that local law enforcement staffing needs are met during the pandemic.

“Even if this was over in a month or two, the effects will be all year. I just don’t see us getting to a point where we don’t have to be conservative about hiring,” she said at the council’s March 30 meeting.

The county is also considering other steps, including nixing discretionary raises and canceling travel and training, according to the news release.

More than 75 percent of the general fund budget goes to law and justice agencies, so “any cuts will have impacts across the board,” the news release said.

“We want there to be no illusions about what may be coming, if the worst economic forecasts become reality,” Somers said in his statement. “We will cut our budget and adapt our operations with our eyes wide open.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist identified in fatal crash near Lake Stevens

Anthony Palko, 33, died Monday night after colliding with a passenger car. The juveniles in the car were taken to the hospital.

Police: Marysville man shot sword-wielding roommate in self-defense

The roommates were arguing over eBay sales, according to police. Then one of them allegedly brandished a two-foot sword.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Everett boy, 12, identified as Davies Beach drowning victim

Malachi Bell was one of three swimmers in distress Sunday in Lake Stevens. He did not survive.

Port of Everett hosting annual open house after pandemic hiatus

Also, Rustic Cork Wine Bar plans to open a second shop at Fisherman’s Harbor — the latest addition to the port’s “wine walk.”

Tulalip council members and tribal members watch as Governor Jay Inslee signs bill HB 1571 into law at the Tulalip Resort on Thursday, March 31, 2022 in Tulalip, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington launches new Indigenous missing person alert system

It’s similar to an Amber Alert. Tulalip families of the missing have called the program a good first step.

Jenson Hankins address the court during his resentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Man gets reduced sentence for 2003 Marysville ambush murder

“I’ve wanted to apologize for a long time,” said Jenson Hankins, who was 16 when he killed John Jasmer near Marysville.

The Tulalip Tribes have joined state and local leaders in calling on residents to stay home when not performing certain essential activities. Six Tulalip Tribes members had tested positive for COVID-19, including a tribal elder who died of the disease, according to the tribes. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Tulalips say US Supreme Court ruling undermines tribal sovereignty

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote: “Indian country is part of the State, not separate from the State.”

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
With influx of patients, Everett hospital’s ER is overwhelmed

Providence set up a command center and diverted resources. A nurse said we’re watching “the collapse of health care.”

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Monroe in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Search begins in earnest for Monroe interim superintendent

Meanwhile, Superintendent Justin Blasko is still on leave, and school officials are keeping quiet about his future.

Most Read