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King County Budget Background Final

King County Budget Background Final

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Published by john_spady
Talks about the Structural Gap, Expenditures, Revenues, and a focus on King County Metro
Talks about the Structural Gap, Expenditures, Revenues, and a focus on King County Metro

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Published by: john_spady on Sep 22, 2011
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09/22/2011

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KING%COUNTY%BUDGET%BACKGROUND
!
The%Structural%Gap
 
King!County!calls!the!General!Fund!budget!challenge!a!structural!problem
%
to!indicate!that!the!challenge!is!a!long8term!problem!caused!by!the!structure!of!general!fund!revenues!and!expenditures.!General!fund!revenues!grow!at!a!slower!rate!than!expenditures.!!In!years!without!a!recession,!general!fund!revenues!grow!at!about!1!to!2%!annually,!while!expenditures!grow!at!5!to!6%.!In!years!with!a!recession,!the!structural!gap!is!magnified!by!a!decrease!in!revenue.
%
Over!the!previous!two!years,!in!2009!and!2010,!King!County!cut!a!total!of!$150!million!from!its!General!Fund.!!Spending!has!been!cut!by!more!than!$30!million!in!real!dollars,!and!service!reductions!have!totaled!$120!million.!Meanwhile,!revenue!in!the!General!Fund!has!declined!for!two!years!in!a!row.!!As!a!result,!the!County!becomes!unable!to!provide!the!same!level!of!services!as!in!the!previous!year,!requiring!continuous!cuts!in!the!level!of!important!services!to!residents.!!Simply!cutting!the!level!of!expenditures!or!finding!new!revenues!does!not!solve!the!structural!problem,!unless!these!actions!increase!the!long8term!growth!of!revenues!and!reduce!growth!in!expenditures.!!
Expenditures%
The!2011!King!County!adopted!budget!of!$5!billion!(which!includes!the!Metro!two8year!budget)!is!made!up!of!both!“dedicated”!and!“discretionary”!funds.!!By!law,!the!dedicated!funds!must!be!used!for!specific!purposes,!such!as!transit,!solid!waste!recycling!and!disposal,!sewage!treatment,!environmental!programs,!capital!improvements,!debt!service,!public!health,!human!services,!and!other!programs.!Dedicated!funds!made!up!most!of!the!budget!(7.6!percent)!in!2010.!!Discretionary!funds!can!be!used!for!mandated!or!non8mandated!programs.!!Various!discretionary!revenues!made!up!the!other!12.4!percent!of!the!2011!budget,!tallying!$62!million!of!the!$5!billion!total!budget,!and!are!known!collectively!as!“the!General!Fund.”!!!About!77!percent!of!the!general!fund!is!used!for!public!safety!and!criminal!justice.!The!rest!goes!to!general!government!administration,!public!health,!and!other!purposes.!The!largest!area!of!expenditures,!at!41!%!is!Physical!Environment,!which!supports!services!related!to!building!and!land!use!permitting;!community!and!regional!parks;!!
 
various!recreational!programs;!solid!waste!disposal;!surface!water!management;!wastewater!treatment;!road!and!bridge!maintenance!and!improvement!in!the!unincorporated!area;!passenger!ferry!operations;!operations!of!an!international!airport;!and!transit!operations.!!The!General!Government!program!area!comprises!the!major!administrative!and!central!support!services!for!King!County!government.!This!includes!the!offices!of!elected!officials:!the!King!County!Council,!the!King!County!Executive,!the!Assessor,!and!the!Director!of!Elections;!!central!service!agencies!that!provide!a!service!to!other!county!agencies;!!direct!public!service!agencies!such!as!Records!and!Licensing!Services!and!Regional!Animal!Services!of!King!County;!and!!miscellaneous!agencies!and!central!reserves.!Approximately!75!percent!of!General!Government!agency!budgets!is!funded!by!internal!service!charges!and!flow!through!internal!service!funds!and!1!percent!of!the!total!General!Government!budget!is!located!in!the!General!Fund.!!Factors!that!exacerbate!the!structural!gap!on!the!expenditure!side!include:!
 
Unfunded!mandates
:
!!Washington!State’s!mandated!increase!in!service!responsibilities!have!rarely!come!with!additional!state!or!other!funding!to!assist!the!County!in!meeting!the!additional!expenses!of!the!service!requirements.!
 
Urban!unincorporated!area!services
:
!!Although!state!law!requires!the!County!to!be!a!provider!of!regional!and!rural!services,!the!County!must!also!provide!services!to!several!unincorporated!yet!heavily!populated!urban!communities.!
 
Cost!pressures
:%
!The!County!faces!many!of!the!same!kinds!of!cost!pressures!on!its!expenditures!that!businesses!do,!such!as!labor!costs,!but!has!far!less!flexibility!than!many!businesses!to!meet!these!challenges.!For!example,!union!contracts!set!employee!wages!and!benefits!for!0!percent!of!all!county!employees,!inflation!increases!the!costs!of!providing!County!services,!both!through!purchases!the!County!makes!and!through!rising!health!care!costs.!
Revenues:%Sales%and%Property%Taxes
 
The!county!collects!two!main!types!of!taxes:!sales!and!property!tax.!Out!of!the!9.5!per8!cent!sales!tax!levied!within!most!parts!of!King!County,!the!county’s!share!is!1.0!percent!in!unincorporated!areas!and!0.15!percent!within!the!cities.!The!County!also!collects!0.9!percent!for!Metro!transit,!0.1!percent!for!mental!health!and!substance!abuse!treatment,!and!0.1!percent!for!criminal!justice!(shared!with!cities!by!formula).!The!remainder!goes!to!the!State!of!Washington!(6.5!percent),!Sound!Transit!(0.9!percent)!and!cities!(0.5!percent!within!their!boundaries).!!!Property!tax!rates!vary!across!the!county!depending!on!specific!rates!charged!by!various!jurisdictions.!On!average,!17.5!percent!of!property!taxes!collected!by!King!County!go!to!
 
the!county.!The!rest!goes!to!the!state;!school!districts;!cities!and!other!taxing!districts!such!as!libraries,!fire!districts!and!hospital!districts.!!The!revenue!for!dedicated!funds!comes!primarily!from!fees,!user!charges,!dedicated!taxes,!voter!approved!special!levies,!and!similar!sources.!
Factors%that%have%led%to%or%exacerbated%the%revenueside%of%the%structural%gap%include:%
 
Heavy!reliance!on!property!tax
:
!!Counties!must!rely!almost!solely!on!property!and!sales!taxes,!while!cities,!for!example,!can!collect!business!and!utility!taxes.!!Less!diversification!in!the!tax!base!means!that!counties!are!affected!more!severely!when!property!tax!or!sales!tax!collections!slow!or!drop.!Property!taxes!make!up!nearly!one8half!of!the!County’s!general!fund!revenues.!!!
 
Property8tax!limiting!regulation
:
!!Initiatives!such!as!I8747!capped!increases!in!the!property!tax!to!one!percent!and!was!subsequently!passed!into!law!by!the!State!Legislature.!This!has!limited!the!growth!of!the!property!tax!and!other!revenues!to!under!the!rate!of!inflation.!!!
 
A!shrinking!tax!base!due!to!annexations!and!incorporations
:%
!Often,!businesses!and!densely!populated!residential!areas!are!annexed!into!cities.!Consequently,!their!tax!revenues!go!to!cities,!leaving!the!County!with!a!lower!level!of!revenue!and!a!slower8growing!base!of!sales!tax.!
 
Economic!downturn
:%
!Both!property!tax!and!sales!tax!collections!are!particularly!hard!hit!in!times!of!slow!economic!growth.!Property!tax!revenues!are!depressed!by!the!slowdown!in!new!construction,!and!sales!tax!revenues!decline!dramatically!as!consumers!cut!back!on!spending.!
%
Focus%on%Metro%Transit%operations
!Metro!Transit!operates!a!fleet!of!about!1,300!vehicles!–!including!standard!and!articulated!coaches,!electric!trolleys,!dual!powered!buses,!and!hybrid!diesel8electric!buses!–!and!in!2010!served!an!annual!bus!ridership!of!over!100!million!people!within!a!2,100!square!mile!area.!!Metro!Transit!serves!riders!who!are!disabled!with!accessible!fixed!route!service!as!well!as!with!paratransit!van!service!and!a!taxi!script!program.!!Metro!Transit!operates!the!largest!publicly!owned!vanpool!program!in!the!country!with!more!than!600!vans!used!by!over!5,000!people!who!use!these!vans!every!day.!!!The!regional!Ridematch!system!helps!commuters!form!and!sustain!new!carpools!and!vanpools!in!seven!counties!by!matching!names!in!a!computer!database.!!Metro!Transit!operates!the!1.38mile!electric!bus!tunnel!underneath!downtown!Seattle.!Metro!Transit!operations!are!funded!by!the!Public!Transportation!Fund,!which!is!comprised!of!three!sub8funds:!operating,!capital,!and!fleet!replacement.!There!are!several!revenue!sources!for!the!Public!Transportation!Fund,!but!the!main!revenue!source!is!the!sales!tax.!

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