Northwest NEWS

August 10, 1998

Editorial

Council looking forward to cooperative county budget process

   (This is a copy of a letter sent by county councilmembers to King County Executive Ron Sims.)
  
   On Nov. 4, 1997, the voters of Washington and King County approved by a wide margin Referendum 47 (R-47) which, among other provisions, limits the level of property tax increase local governments may impose on citizens.
  
   As you know, before the passage of R-47, local governments were allowed to take up to a six percent annual increase in property tax revenues, regardless of inflation or population growth, not counting revenues from property improvements and new construction.
  
   Now, any increase in property taxes must be held to inflationary levels, unless a local government's council or commissioners vote to exceed R-47 limits with a supermajority vote.
  
   The regular process for developing the 1999 budget is underway.
  
   We are writing to you now, at the outset of the budget process, to ask you to work with the Council in a good faith effort to comply with the R-47 limit.
  
   King County's General Fund budget for 1998 totals $425 million. According to your staff, applying Referendum 47 limits to the 1999 budget would result in the budget increasing to $428.3 million in 1999 (assuming an implicit price deflator of 1.9 percent) instead of the $435 million you have proposed with a 5.5 percent increase and an inflationary increase is, at the time of this writing, $6.7 million.
  
   The voters in each of our districts and King County as a whole supported Referendum 47. Given such a high level of support for the measure, we believe we are obligated to make a serious effort to comply with the intent of R-47 without hurting vital county services and programs such as public safety and salmon habitat restoration, for example.
  
   We can hold the 1999 property tax revenue increase to inflationary levels with bipartisan, Council-Executive cooperation. In 1997, the Council worked in such a manner to deal with the EMS crisis and passed the 1998 budget with a 13-0 vote.
  
   1999 budget process that will allow us to address the challenges of providing government that is fiscally prudent yet also offers outstanding services to its citizens. We hope you will work with us to satisfy these goals before you transmit the 1999 proposed budget. Thank you for your consideration of this issue.
   King County Councilmembers, Rob McKenna, Louise Miller, Kent Pullen, Christopher Vance, Jane Hague