MYNORTHWEST NEWS

King County facing $50 million budget shortfall over next 2 years

Jun 11, 2016, 9:25 AM

King County Sheriff John Urquhart said public safety is at risk if he has to cut his helicopter unit because of possible budget cuts.

“Frankly people are going to die if we don’t have a helicopter to go in and get them out,” Sheriff Urquhart said.

These strong words came on the 25th anniversary of launching the air support unit.

King County is facing a $50 million budget shortfall over the next two years.

Of that, $3.8 million will have to come out of the sheriff’s budget.

“My hands are tied,” he added.

The helicopters, used for search and rescue and to capture bad guys, are on the chopping block.

“I’m not going to cut uniform patrol or detectives, so I have nothing but the marine unit, that’s the the boats on the water, and the helicopter unit,” Urquhart explained.

Back in April, King County Executive Dow Constantine blamed the state legislature for failing to lift the state’s strict 1 percent property tax ceiling, saying it severely limits the amount of money all counties in the state can collect, including King.

“Over time, those chronic deficits add up to real cuts for real services that need to be provided to a growing population,” Constantine said. “It is a situation that cannot continue. We have to have the legislature take this seriously and fix it.”

KIRO 7 asked state Sen. Pam Roach if there was anything the legislature could do to save the air support unit.

“I think what we’re needing to do is fit within existing resources,” Roach answered.

Roach said she thinks the county should look to its neighbors for an answer.

“In order to find their solutions, they should be going up to Snohomish County and down to Pierce County, and maybe to Kittitas,” she added. “Say we need more funding, would you be willing to share the resource with us?”

Roach said she now plans to hold a public hearing on the air support unit before King County approves its budget later this year.

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