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King County budget includes cash for gang unit members, but fewer than sheriff wanted

Dow Constantine is asking for more money for buses in his county budget. (Photo courtesy King County Flickr)

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht has been asking for money for three new positions for a regional gang task force. In Executive Dow Constantine’s proposed 2-year budget she got two –- a detective and a sergeant. The sheriff had wanted funding for a third position for an IBIS — or ballistics expert — to focus on tracking guns involved with gang crimes in the county, according to sheriff’s Sergeant Ryan Abbott.

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The two new positions will cost the county a total of $842,000 over two years – $400,000 annually for the two positions and a little over $100,000 for the hiring process, the bulk of which is from new vehicles.

Abbott says Sheriff Johanknecht is pleased with the new jobs and is hoping other cities in South King County, such as Kent, Federal Way, and Auburn, will also provide officers for what she hopes will eventually be a 20-member Regional Gang Unit.

Also in Constantine’s proposed $11.6 billion budget, the executive re-organizes government, creating three new departments to improve customer service and increase accountability.

Under his proposal, Metro Transit will become its own department, with a $1.89 billion budget from 2019-2020. Constantine says the agency will increase bus service by 177,000 hours over the next two years and invest in new electric buses as well as charging stations and additional bus bases.

There will also be a new department of local services to better coordinate and deliver county services to the more than 250,000 people in unincorporated parts of the county.

There would also be a new human resources department to “create a culture in which every employee is engaged, experiences trust and respect, and is treated with dignity,” according to the county proposal.

The more than 800-page budget proposal also includes more than $240 million for housing and community development, which includes everything from shelter support to building affordable housing.

It also includes nearly $10 million for a variety of behavioral and mental health services and programs, among several other investments to address the homeless crisis.

The King County Council will begin discussing the budget next week and make any changes in the weeks ahead. The final budget is expected to be adopted before the end of November.

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