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County budget passes with cuts in funding, services

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The King County Council voted 11-2 Tuesday, Nov. 23, to adopt

its proposed 2000 budget. The budget _ which totals $2.4 billion _ was

revised downwards following the passage of I-695.

The final figures brought a reduction in funding of $261 million,

almost 10 percent below 1999 spending levels. The council agreed to a 3.5

percent increase in the property tax and increased 10 fees, such as service

and impact fees for the Department of Development and Environmental

Services.

The council announced it had successfully avoided cuts to the

sheriff's department and public health services _ but then again, it didn't. For law

enforcement, King County only agreed to fund several sheriffs' activities

for six months. It took a similar approach to public health funding.

Notably, in both cases the council has asked the state to come up

with funds for the remainder of the year.

In the public health area, the budget will lose about $2.5 million,

which will directly impact the operations of community health clinics. The

council voted to continue funding for only three months; if Olympia

doesn't come through, council will have to cut an additional $4.5 million.

In law enforcement, the county faced a $5.8 million budget

shortfall due to the loss of revenues from the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax. In

response, the council voted to fund the department's marine unit,

helicopter, three community service officers and a traffic unit for only six months.

However, according to Sgt. Grant Stewart of the sheriff's North

Bend office, the unique approach to law enforcement funding will not

cause problems within his office's jurisdiction or with other KCSO

operations in the Valley.

"There will be no direct impact on North Bend," he commented

Monday. "It's not going to affect us at all."

The area where Valley citizens will see a great change is in bus

service. The council voted to eliminate $30 million from the transportation

budget, but again, is looking to the state to shore it up. In the meantime,

three routes operating in various locations of the Snoqualmie Valley will

shut down in February.

The routes are No. 209, which services North Bend, Snoqualmie,

Fall City, Preston and Issaquah; Route 922, which runs between Redmond

and Carnation; and Route 929, covering Redmond, Duvall, Stillwater,

Carnation, Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend.

Service on routes 311 _ connecting Seattle, Woodinville and Duvall

_ and 214 _ Seattle, Issaquah, Preston, Fall City, Snoqualmie and North

Bend _ will continue.

Other service cuts extend throughout King County, although the

council voted to withdraw $3 million from transit's administrative budget in

an effort to limit further service reductions. The governing body also

rejected a proposed transit fare increase for the disabled and elderly.

Unless the state comes through with funds to retain the service,

the point is probably moot for Valley residents who rely on the three

cancelled routes. Said one Snoqualmie resident, who was sitting out in the cold

wind late Monday afternoon while waiting for one of the doomed buses, "I

think it's a bad idea.

"I can't get to work because I don't have a vehicle," said the

young woman, who declined to give her name. "The only transportation I

have is the bus.

"I don't mind cutting back, like if there was a bus every hour. What

I don't like is getting it cut back all together. I don't know what I'm

going to do."

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