Each fall, the Snohomish County Council adopts the County budget for the following year. By County Charter, the County Executive proposes a budget to the Council. Right now, we are considering Executive Somers’ proposed budget for 2020.
The 2020 budget will be the first $1 billion budget for Snohomish County. The budget is broken down into the General Fund (25% of the 2020 budget), Special Revenue Funds (including Roads, 40%), Internal Service Funds (Central Operations, 14%), Enterprise Funds (Airport, Solid Waste, Surface Water, 14%), Capital Projects Funds (4%), and Debt Service Funds (3%).
As always, Public Safety is the number one priority in this year’s budget. In the proposed budget, the total Law and Justice budget makes up just over 75% of the General Fund. Executive Somers has proposed a study of the Law and Justice system to create a more cohesive and comprehensive strategy moving forward to address homelessness, associated mental health and addiction issues, and property crimes.
Another major component of the annual budget process is setting the taxes and fees which fund County operations. These taxes and fees include the general property tax levy, roads fund levy, conservation futures levy, licenses and permit fees, Surface Water Management Fee, and a separate assessment for the Conservation District.
Since joining the Council in 2017, I have fought to limit tax and rate increases in order to provide some relief to the tax burden that Snohomish County residents face from a combination of local, state, and federal taxes. The Council has been successful in adopting balanced budgets without increasing the general property tax levy in the past two budgets. I believe that it is important to live within our means and spend your hard earned tax dollars in the most efficient way possible. That is why I have committed to finding efficiencies and cutting waste before supporting any increases in taxes.
The Surface Water Management (SWM) fee funds projects related to storm water runoff and fish habitat. There is currently a proposal on the table which would increase the SWM fee in rural areas from the current $90 per year (per dwelling unit) to $122 which amounts to a 35% increase. I have opposed increases to the SWM fee for rural residents in the past and I will continue to do so in this budget.
The Snohomish Conservation District is also requesting a rate increase. Currently, they collect $7 per parcel and $0.07 per acre resulting in a total collection of $1.7 million per year. The Conservation District has proposed a 3 year rate increase resulting in a total collection of $2.5 million per year by 2022. This proposal would amount to a 44% increase over three years. I also plan on opposing this increase.
In a time when many other governmental agencies are increasing taxes and fees on residents, I am proud to be fighting to limit that burden from Snohomish County. I will continue that work as we move forward in the budget writing process.
Nate Nehring 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 Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at (425) 388-3494.