King County may ask voters next fall to approve a new levy for early childhood programs and other youth services, County Executive Dow Constantine said Monday while unveiling his budget plan for 2015 and 2016.
Investing in children now will save the county money in the long run by reducing future costs associated with incarceration, violence, diabetes and mental illness, he said.
Constantine is calling the levy proposal Best Starts for Kids. He provided no specifics Monday, saying the details will be hammered out over the next several months.
For now, Constantine will ask the Metropolitan King County Council to sign-off on an overall two-year budget plan that totals $8.9 billion, including a $1.5 billion general fund.
He said the plan saves $35 million through new efficiencies and cost reductions, such as reorganizing the county’s jail transportation system to reduce inmate transfers.
The county’s economy is booming, but the budget nonetheless includes service cuts in several sectors and the elimination of more than 500 county jobs, Constantine said.
That’s largely because the county’s property-tax increase is capped by state law at 1 percent plus new construction, he said.
The result is that the county’s general fund revenues are growing at about 2.5 percent, less than inflation and population growth, Constantine said, calling for state legislators to repeal I-747, which established the 1 percent cap.
“We operate under an antiquated and profoundly broken tax system that is mathematically incapable of generating the minimum revenue necessary to sustain public services,” he said in a press release.
The Metropolitan King County Council will hold public hearings on Constantine’s plan between now and November.
While the budget calls for the elimination of more than 500 positions, the actual number of layoffs will be about 200, due to vacancies, retirements and transfers, Constantine said.
Reductions in the plan include deep cuts to Metro and the closure of two of the county’s 10 public health clinics on Jan. 1.