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King County looking for citizens to help make 2008 budget priority decisions

The Metropolitan King County Council has launched an initiative to engage citizens in a public process to prioritize services for the 2008 King County Budget and help evaluate how their money is being spent.

“We will hear directly from the public on their priorities for how we spend their hard-earned tax dollars,” said Councilman Bob Ferguson, chair of the Operating Budget, Fiscal Management and Mental Health Committee.

The first phase of the Citizen Engagement Initiative calls for a series of focus group workshops over the next six weeks with randomly-selected citizens drawn from a cross-section of the population. An independent contractor will conduct the workshops and provide a written “People's Report” to the Council by March 1. To meet that deadline the Council today adopted legislation to waive competitive bidding and formal solicitation requirements for the approximately $80,000 contract.

That report will form the basis for a number of public meetings of the Council's Operating Budget, Fiscal Management and Mental Health Committee. Citizens will be invited to forums held in March and April in various geographic areas of the county, some on evenings and weekends, to offer their comments on how King County should prioritize its spending and on how they perceive that money is now being spent by the agencies providing public services.

By early May, the Council will gather all the citizen comment and transmit a set of adopted budget priorities to guide the County Executive in preparation of his 2008 budget proposal, and to provide citizen-based policy direction and priorities to the Council for its 2008 budget deliberations and beyond.

The Council last fall adopted a set of “Priorities for People” to guide development of the 2007 King County Budget, which totaled $3.86 billion.

“As chair of the 2007 budget process, I made sure to include funding to expand public participation in setting budget priorities,” said Councilman Dow Constantine, chair of the Council's Capital Budget Committee.

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