The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved its first biennial budget on Nov. 18, which provides funding to keep the doors open at their public health clinic in Northshore until December 2015.
Councilmember Rod Dembowski authored the section of the budget that lays out steps for identifying long-term revenue to maintain the clinic’s services. Those steps include analysis of revenue-generating leasing options for the vacant portion of the Northshore clinic building, and the potential for revenue generated from the sale of the building to be used to fund the continuation of clinic services.
Earlier this year, facing a $15 million gap in the Public Health budget, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that up to four King County Public Health clinics could be slated for closure, including the Public Health clinic at Northshore.
In an attempt to maintain the vital services the Northshore clinic provides to more than 4,000 patients annually, a spokesperson for Dembowski said he initiated an all-hands-on-deck approach with the North King County cities he represents on the Council.
“As a kid, I received my health care at a King County Public Health clinic. Keeping these vital services for women and children was my top budget priority. I am working closely with our city partners to form partnerships to keep Northshore Public Health Clinic open beyond 2015,” Dembowski said. “I believe more work is needed to develop a long-term strategy for delivering maternity support services and Women, Infant & Children program services, before we close the door on the 4,000-plus patients in our community who rely on Northshore each year.”
The adopted budget is the County’s first biennial budget for all county agencies, including those contained within the County General Fund. The adopted General Fund Budget was set at $1.5 billion, three-quarters of which is targeted for law, justice and public safety services.
At the start of the budget process, several public health centers were slated for closure. Residents of the communities that depend on the clinics testified at the special meetings held by the Council about the importance of the centers. Partnerships and collaboration between the county, local jurisdictions and other community agencies helped locate the funding needed to keep the clinic doors open temporarily in Federal Way, White Center, and Auburn. The Council’s budget also includes funding to help keep Northshore, the last of the clinics on the closure list, open into the biennium.
Potential reductions in transit service were also a concern going into the budget process, with the Council committed to reviewing both the levels of bus service and transit reserves during the development of the budget.