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County approves 2018 budget


January 10, 2018 | View PDF

The responsibility of passing a budget for Snohomish County government is something which the County Council takes very seriously. Last month, the council-adopted budget went into effect. Back in September, the County Executive proposed a 4 percent increase in the county's property tax levy. After consultation with staff, Council Chair Brian Sullivan proposed a 2 percent increase. Both budgets prioritized public safety by adding five new Sheriff's deputies and a code enforcement officer. With both proposals on the table, negotiations began between councilmembers to establish a budget deal that prioritized essential county functions while limiting the burden on taxpayers. Throughout the budget process, I maintained a position opposing an increase to the tax burden on Snohomish County residents.

On November 20th, the County Council met to consider and take action on a number of revenue ordinances including various property tax proposals. Following debate, the Council began voting on revenue ordinances. The 2 percent property tax increased proposed by the Council Chair was defeated on a 2-3 vote. I then made a motion to approve a 0 percent property tax ordinance. With Councilmembers Stephanie Wright and Sam Low joining me in supporting this proposal, the three votes necessary were obtained and the 0 percent increase in property taxes was adopted by Council.

The next day, on November 21st, the County Council met to consider and take action on expenditures. With the adoption of a 0 percent property tax increase, approximately $1.8 million needed to be found in spending cuts from the Chair's proposed budget. I offered 12 amendments to cut spending in order to balance the budget. Other councilmembers also offered amendments for spending cuts. These amendments included removing pay increases for management positions, removing proposed additional employees, cutting back on miscellaneous departmental spending, and using Real Estate Excise Tax (REET 1) rather than the general fund in order to make debt payments. Each of the proposed amendments passed. Following the passage of these amendments, the 2018 budget was passed on a unanimous 5-0 vote.

Some key items included in the county's 2018 budget are five new Sheriff's deputies and an additional code enforcement officer to crack down on various nuisance properties throughout the county. The budget also includes the 2018 work plans for county departments. The 2018 Parks, Recreation, and Tourism work plan includes prioritization of several North County projects. Trail improvements include $1.6 million toward Centennial Trail and $1 million toward Whitehorse trail. Park improvements include $500,000 toward Whitehorse Park improvements and $250,000 toward the Kayak Point Park Renovation. The 2018 Roads work plan also includes prioritization of several North County projects. $1.1 million will be directed toward rural roads preservation for Marine Drive and 84th Street NE, $1 million toward drainage improvements for Sauk Prairie Rd, and over $1 million toward culvert replacements throughout north county.

Following months of negotiations and eventual adoption, I am happy to say that the adopted 2018 budget for Snohomish County carefully balances essential services with fiscal restraint. With investments to public safety and improved quality of life, Snohomish County residents are well served by our balanced budget. Moreover, all of this was accomplished without raising property taxes. As we move into 2018, I look forward to the continued opportunity for the Council and Executive to work collaboratively in order to best serve the people of Snohomish County.

This column is the opinion of Nate Nehring, who is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 425-388-3494.


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