County budget update from Councilmember Dembowski

Monday, May 4, 2020

King County
Councilmember Rod Dembowski
County Budget Update
From newsletter of Councilmember Rod Dembowski

As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, please know that we are working diligently to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our health and economy. 

The County budget is not immune to the economic downturn created by COVID-19, but federal funds and creative use of some of our dedicated funds will provide us with some flexibility to support our residents, businesses, and service providers. Here is a brief update:

  • King County has spent over $50 million on acquiring, siting, leasing, and constructing emergency response facilities
  • The County is seeking partial reimbursement of the $50 million through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and State funds 
  • The County anticipates receiving $262 million in Federal CARES Act funds, and the County Council and County Executive are working together on a plan for how to disburse these funds 
  • The Council is also partnering with the Executive on emergency supplemental appropriations for grants to:
    • tourism, arts, science, live music, arts education, and youth homelessness by accelerating distribution of lodging tax funds*
    • small businesses
    • outreach to organization serving populations on the frontlines of the outbreak
  • The County’s Budget Director Dwight Dively reports that the County’s investments are doing well and the County has had no defaults and sees no current risk of defaults 

*The lodging tax is a dedicated fund authorized by Washington State. It allows counties and cities to impose an excise tax of two percent on the sales of or charge made for the furnishing of lodging for periods of less than 30 consecutive days. 

The tax is applied to a variety of lodgings, including motels, RV parks and summer camps. Also known as the hotel/motel tax, in King County, this revenue has most recently been used to fund regional sports stadiums, housing, and arts and culture.

With the last of CenturyLink Field debt paid off by 2020, by ordinance, King County can use the funds to also support tourism promotion and programs that help homeless youth. 

Investing in the region’s tourism industry, to help it bounce back after the health crisis has passed, will ensure the hotel/motel tax revenue remains strong in the future. It is essential to protect this source of revenue so the County can continue to invest funds in much needed housing.

The County’s Budget Director is providing regular updates to the Council. You can watch his April 21 update here.

Rob Dembowski represents north end cities on the King county council, including Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, portions of north Seattle


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