By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers has submitted the proposed budget for the upcoming 2021 year.
Experiencing an economic downturn induced by the coronavirus pandemic, Somers says that the county is committed to cutting costs and reducing expenditures to meet revenue projections. Proposed measures include General Fund budget reductions, a hiring freeze, furloughs, and the cancellation of most discretionary spending.
Somers’ proposal allocates $264 million to the county’s General Fund budget. The total of all funds is $1.045 billion, a decrease of roughly $55 million from the 2020 budget.
The entirety of the County’s law and justice system—including the Courts, Sheriff’s Office, Prosecuting Attorney, Public Defense, Clerk, Emergency Management, and the Medical Examiner—represents around 75% of the proposed General Fund budget, says Somers. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will remain the largest individual element of the proposed General Fund budget, representative of 42% of it to be spent on a combination of law enforcement and corrections function expenses.
The remaining 25% of the general fund will prospectively be directed toward all other essential county functions.
Within the budget proposal mentions a plan to purchase body cameras for deputies, purchased through an obtained $500,000 from a law and justice study. However, training and installing computer storage systems will take longer than a year to implement, says Somers.
The county also is proposing the creation of a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, merging the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department with the Surface Water Management Environmental Sustainability Office, and the Agriculture Office.
To mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the budget will allow for funds to be allocated towards developing a county stockpile of personal protective equipment to last for six months.
The budget will allow the county and city to focus efforts on the housing crisis that Somers said will almost certainly be worse in 2021. Public safety will be viewed as “a top priority” while emphasizing progress towards social justice, says Somers. There will also be continued efforts to diversify the economy, strengthen workforce training, speed economic recovery, and identify innovative job growth program.
“In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, a major economic downturn, and the largest civil rights movement in our lifetime, we are prioritizing the county’s essential functions and finding ways to move our community forward in spite of the challenges,” said Somers.
“Across our community, people are struggling, and we have responded with compassion and resilience. We don’t know what 2021 may bring, but we are prepared.”
The Snohomish County Council will now consider the Executive’s proposed budget. They are expected to approve the 2021 budget by the end of November.