Snohomish County, like other local governments, adopts an annual budget which sets the revenues and expenditures for county government. In this month’s column, I will cover the budget process and some highlights of the adopted 2022 county budget. 

The County Council process begins when the County Executive proposes a budget in September. The Executive’s budget is analyzed through department presentations, research of Council analysts, and Councilmember inquiries. Following that work, Councilmembers propose amendments to the budget. The Council votes on amendments and ultimately adopts a final budget in November. This year’s budget was adopted on Nov. 9.  

My top priority for the 2022 budget was to oppose property taxes on Snohomish County residents. The Executive’s proposed budget increased the County’s general property tax levy by 2.5% next year.  

The County Council approved the tax increase on a split 3-2 vote, making this budget the first time in 4 years in which the general property tax levy has been raised. For the previous 4 years, we have managed to balance the budget by reducing waste and utilizing increased revenues resulting from increased economic activity.  

I was disappointed in the decision to raise taxes this year and I voted “no” for a few reasons which I will describe below. 

First, we did not need to increase taxes to continue funding the core functions of county government. The current services provided by the County were not at risk of being cut or reduced if we maintained the existing tax rate. 

Second, we did not need to increase taxes to fund new or expanded county programs. Because of an influx of federal COVID relief funds (over $300 million), the sale of the Cathcart property ($40 million), and excess sales tax revenue ($10 million), Snohomish County is in one of the best financial positions in history. We had plenty of funding for programs without increasing property taxes. 

Finally, families and businesses are suffering from the cumulative effects of tax increases from the state, school districts, local governments, and other taxing authorities. To increase county taxes while families are having to tighten their belts in order to make ends meet is wrong in my view. Snohomish County taxpayers have shouldered the burden of over $294 million in total new taxes over the past 4 years. We did not need to add to that this year. 

While my main priority was opposing property tax increases, I also advocated for additional law enforcement investments paid for by spending cuts and revenue increases in other areas of the budget. Public safety is and ought to be the number one priority of local government. That is why Councilmember Low and I proposed an increase to the number of Sheriff’s Deputies in the 2022 budget. I have heard loud and clear from North County residents that they want to see more investments in public safety, not less. Fortunately, our amendment to add three deputies to next year’s budget did pass.  

I will provide additional highlights from the adopted budget in my upcoming monthly newsletters. If you would like to be included on that mailing list, please let me know at nate.nehring@snoco.org.  

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) 512-4810.

 

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