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King County warns of potential layoffs due to $100 million budget hole

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(The Center Square) – King County employees received an email from Budget Director Dwight Dively warning of potential cuts to county positions.

The news comes in the midst of a looming $100 million revenue shortfall in 2025 and 2026. King County will be considering a budget in the fall that will include cuts to general fund programs. The Center Square previously reported on the shortfall, citing King County Executive Dow Constantine, who blames Washington state’s “arbitrary 1% limit on property tax collections,” which has not been updated in 20 years.

Initiative 747 was passed in 2001 to limit property tax increases to 1%. Since the cap was instituted, Washington counties can’t impose business and utility taxes, unlike cities and the state. County officials say this limit does not coincide with King County’s population growing 30%, while consumer prices have increased 70% since 2001.

Inflation since the COVID-19 pandemic has been as high as 9.5%. According to the county, property tax collections have grown only an average of 2.7% in recent years.

Most of the county’s general fund goes towards programs such as jail, public defense, courts and prosecution. These programs are mandated by Washington state and federal law.

Programs including public health clinics, services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, job training services, support for small farmers and forest owners and King County Sheriff’s deputies and detectives in unincorporated and rural communities face potential elimination. This is due to the county’s general fund facing increased expenses due to inflation.

“The general fund supports a number of expenses required by the state, like operating a jail and the court system, which cannot be cut,” Dively explained in the email to King County employees. “That leaves the remainder of the general fund to face reductions, which can’t be spread out among the general fund evenly.”

Various departments will be tasked with developing plans that meet target goals and sending those to the budget planners, who will then work on building a proposed budget for Constantine. The county executive will then send his budget recommendations to the King County Council in October.

Dively added that the planning instructions county agencies received in May included budget goals to meet, and each agency is tasked with finding the best solution to balance the needs of county residents and create the smallest impact on each department.

“This could potentially include making reductions or finding savings elsewhere by eliminating open positions or not filling vacant positions,” Dively said. “However, it is likely some filled positions will be eliminated next year.”

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