Those are the two questions Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon asked as he came to the Lynnwood fire station last night for his first “Community Conversation.”
“We have to make very difficult decisions about what services we fund, at what level we provide those services and what priorities we decide to take into account,” Reardon told the crowd. “How do we go forward?”
About a dozen people showed up to share their opinions. Each person voted for their budget priorities using an anonymous polling device.
Exactly half of the people in the room said the county should place the highest priority on services that provide economic growth and protect vulnerable citizens, while the lowest priority should be on better administration for county services.
The audience was split down the middle when Reardon asked if they were satisfied with current spending on county services such as police, arts and disaster preparedness — although 58 percent of those attending said more should be spent on health and human services.
Exactly half of the audience also said more should be spent on agricultural preservation and flood control, environmental services (pollution and stormwater control), and parks and community development.
When asked if voters should be given the choice to raise their taxes before special programs such as parks and animal control are eliminated, 90 percent of people said yes.
Most of the audience said they’d support a tax increase to fund county services. 73 percent said they’d support a law and justice levy while 64 percent said they’d approve one for parks and recreation.
Reardon is hosting these meetings throughout Snohomish County this week as the county prepares for another budget shortfall in 2011. Last month the County Council approved across-the-board spending cuts for all departments, which addressed an anticipated revenue shortfall of $3.6 million in 2010.