News from County Executive Dave Somers: October 2017

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News from the County Executive

October 2017

The Future We Choose: Snohomish County’s Budget for 2018 

Last month, I submitted my recommended budget to the County Council. They will now deliberate and pass a budget to fund Snohomish County government. I wanted to give you some details about my proposed budget and what my priorities are for 2018.

As Executive, I have been committed from day one to ensuring that we prepare for what we are facing as a community. I believe we must build the future we choose and not just accept what is handed to us.

County government is the place where the people’s business gets done. We keep our streets safe. We run the most important parts of the justice system, including the Sheriff’s Office, the Courts, and the jail. We manage the machinery of elections. We collect taxes. We assess property values. We manage parklands and fairgrounds. We build and maintain roads. We take care of waste disposal and surface water. We manage an airport, and provide services for our most vulnerable citizens.  County government is truly the government closest to the people.  We provide the services essential for our quality of life.

My recommended budget for 2018 is fair, balanced, and puts an emphasis on key priorities. Those five priorities are:


1. We must maintain a safe, resilient, and livable Snohomish County.

We must begin by keeping public safety our top priority because we choose a future where our streets are safe and our families secure.

Public safety has always been my number one priority. With over 75% of our general fund budget going toward law and justice agencies, our top priority is clear. My colleagues on the County Council have proven time and again that it's their highest priority, too. 

That's why my recommended budget:  restores full funding to the Sheriff’s Office for 2017 and 2018; eliminates cuts for most other public safety agencies in 2018; adds five new deputies to the Sheriff’s Office; funds necessary technology upgrades to improve the safety and timeliness of Sheriff’s Office operations; and otherwise continues our history of ensuring the hard-working sheriff, his deputies, and civilian staff have the resources they need to face our challenges.

As part of our effort to build a safer, more resilient, more livable community, I’m also focusing more time and resources on our efforts to assist veterans. These brave Americans volunteered to serve our country in uniform, and we have an obligation to do all we can to assist them as they transition to civilian life and particularly when they fall on hard times.


2. We must strengthen and diversify our local economy.

Last year I launched the Snohomish County Economic Development Initiative. This initiative established sector leads within Snohomish County government for nine high priority areas of opportunity. We are making progress in building open channels of communication between those in the private sector and areas of greatest economic potential in the county.

We have already had some early success, including the recent announcement of Comcast’s investment of over $1.5 million in Arlington and Marysville to support the development of the proposed new manufacturing zone.

Earlier this year I also announced a “Smart County Initiative” to gather ideas about how to better link our urban and rural communities. The more our community takes advantage of the high-tech tools available to us, the more likely we are to bridge the gap between those who are enjoying the fruits of our vibrant economy and those who are not.


3. We must improve transportation mobility.

In my budget, I also launched our Snohomish County Neighborhoods Initiative. I want to partner with my colleagues on the County Council to focus on neighborhood gridlock and ways we can address chokepoints to help ease congestion on our local roads. This initiative incorporates the countywide sidewalk program which is focused on improving safety around schools and enhancing neighborhood connectivity.

Also helping our transportation system will be the start of commercial flights from Paine Field. We may be less than a year away from that eventuality, and it will be a game changer for our residents and businesses. It means that we will no longer have to drive through Seattle to get to an airport. One will now be just minutes away, connecting us to the world. With a commercial terminal there will be more opportunities for our existing businesses and more tools for us to attract new businesses.

4. We must improve customer service and make county government more efficient and responsive. 

Another priority as Executive is to do all I can to improve customer service at the county, because the future we choose to create is one where every resident is served quickly and effectively.

One of our greatest early successes has been in our Department of Planning and Development Services. They have been able to drop the time it takes to process one type of permit by over 80%! PDS has also been a leader in our efforts to implement the continuous improvement, lean model through our STEP Initiative. We now have a fully-functioning continuous improvement office that is aggressively working to change our culture from one that is more management-driven to one that is employee-driven, solution oriented, and more efficient.

We are also working closely with our colleagues to extend service hours to better serve the public, since we had to shorten hours during the Great Recession.


5. We must maintain sustainable budgets and maximum transparency.

Our budgets can only be sustainable if we treat every taxpayer dollar with the respect it deserves. People work hard for their money, and we must treat the resources under our care with the same discipline with which it was earned.

The future we choose is the one where our budget is sustainable and our core responsibilities are fully funded. One day this economic boom will end, and it is incumbent on us to be ready when that happens.

For the last ten years, we have had to find savings every year, since our set expenses rise faster than revenues. As you probably know, county governments across our state wrestle with costs rising faster than revenues. That means we must make strategic choices about the use of limited resources, and we are doing just that. We also want to ensure that our residents get the kind of service and professionalism they deserve and expect.

We have made many big decisions that have served to strengthen the county’s overall financial position: we cut the cost of the courthouse in half, saving somewhere near $80 million; we are addressing chronic problems like long-deferred maintenance and outdated technology; we are investing in lean practices through our STEP Initiative to ensure we are a modern, empowered workforce solving problems; we are prudently rebuilding our reserves to sustain us during times of economic uncertainty; and our fiscal restraint is putting us on a much stronger footing for when the next recession hits. 

Snohomish County is currently the second fastest growing county in the United States. Our secret is out! With commercial air service and light rail coming, UW Bothell and the new WSU campus both growing, a redeveloping Port of Everett, and so much more, there are a lot of exciting things happening in Snohomish County.

I look forward to working with my partners on the County Council to approve a fair, effective, and balanced budget for 2018.

Dave Sommers

Dave Somers
County Executive

3000 Rockefeller Ave., 

M/S 407 
Everett, WA 98201

PH: 425-388-3050

FAX: 425-388-3434

 Public Advocate

PH: 425-388-3365

dave somers