Each January, the Snohomish County Council elects its leadership for the year. As you may know, I served as Vice Chair of the Council in 2019. At our first meeting of the year, I was elected by my colleagues to serve at Chair of the Council for 2020. I am humbled by the trust they have placed in me and look forward to laying out some of our priorities for the year at the Snohomish County Council. Three of the main areas we will be focusing on in 2020 are budget, housing affordability, and public safety.
One of the initial ideas we will be considering is the prospect of adopting a biennial budget versus our current annual budget. A biennial budget sets out our expenditures and projected revenues on a two-year cycle. This approach is utilized by many local jurisdictions as well as the State of Washington. A biennial budget allows the Council and executive departments to look at staffing and program spending over a longer period of time, which results in more strategic decision-making and prioritization. Budgeting on a two-year cycle also allows for Council and departments to have more time to assess the impact of budgetary decisions and make more strategic adjustments.
Another priority is housing affordability. We have all observed the rising price of housing in the Greater Puget Sound area and specifically in Snohomish County. As housing prices to the south continue to rise, there are more demands for housing here in the northern part of the county. It is important to me that we consider how we can influence housing affordability at all levels of the price spectrum, including middle-class families who do not qualify for low-income housing assistance but are still struggling to afford a home. My hope is that we can work with stakeholders in the industry to reduce regulatory barriers which can often increase housing costs by as much as 25%.
The issues of homelessness, substance abuse, and crime affect all residents of our county, regardless of where you live. We recognize this as one of our top priorities and will be working this year to continue to identify and support effective solutions. We have seen some great early successes with the law enforcement-embedded social worker program in Smokey Point. By offering services to those who will take it and holding accountable those who refuse, we are making progress on this issue in North County. I look forward to continuing to support this program and its ongoing success. As a co-chair of the Regional Law and Justice Council, I will be working with Council-man Sam Low and our law and justice partners to support a regional approach to these issues.
I am excited for what this year has to bring and am looking forward to working with my fellow councilmembers and our great staff to move Snohomish County forward in 2020.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unin-corporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at 425-388-3494.