The Monroe City Council is considering a $2 per capita funding request from the Snohomish County Health District.
The state’s first local health jurisdiction reports due to financial struggles since the Great Recession in 2008, including downsizing staff and reducing services, it is in need of assistance from cities, according to a proposed interlocal agreement. City Attorney Zach Lell has reviewed and revised the draft, which he presented to the council at last Tuesday’s meeting.
Lell recommends the council adopt the “low-risk” agreement. Addressing concerns from Mayor Geoffrey Thomas, he said the contract has the potential to protect the amount of basic services received from the health district by the city. Councilmembers agreed they would need to see some changes made and more information before approving the contract.
Cities have made various per capita and other short-term funding contributions to the health district since 1967, according to the agreement. The district formed in 1959.
“State funding for local public health has decreased 65.7 percent from a peak of $27.29 per capita in 2000 to $9.36 per capita in 2014,” according to the agreement. “The Health District has experienced a 22 percent decrease from its 2005 funding level while the county population has increased by 14 percent in the same 10-year period...The Health District ranks 34 out of 35 local health jurisdictions in the state for public health expenditures per resident.”
When the health district first made the request last year, the council asked that $36,240 be set aside for the agreement, which the agreement states can be paid in a lump sum in 2017, or made in four equal, quarterly payments.
The city and other jurisdictions are currently in discussions with the health district regarding the sale of the Rucker Building in Everett, which was purchased with a loan paid off through a five-year 1990 interlocal agreement that included Snohomish County, 20 local cities and the health district. The health district paid off the majority of the loan. Once the loan was paid off in 1995, the agreement was satisfied. Afterward, no documentation of any entity’s claim to the building was completed, other than the deed and title of the building, which only name the health district as the owner.
The health district is currently in the process of asking all involved cities to relinquish any existing or potential claim to the building before it is sold.
Councilmember Jason Gamble said he was concerned about entering into another interlocal agreement before the issue with the Rucker Building is resolved.
“...We are talking about moving into an agreement with an entity that we had an agreement with before that we can’t prove what happened to interests and documentation,” he said, “so I would like to do that first before we enter into another agreement with this particular entity.”
Councilmember Jeff Rasmussen, who sits on the district health board, said the conversation regarding the sale at the Feb. 21 council meeting should clear up much of the confusion regarding ownership.
The health district’s agreement shows the basic services it would offer to the county as part of the agreement are, “ensuring safe food, and inspecting septic systems, responding to disasters, or preventing and responding to disease outbreaks.”
Thomas said those services are already provided without an interlocal agreement, and he doesn’t want to see that change based on how much funding, if any, the city decides to provide the health district.
Lell said the mayor’s concern is valid, and he could draft language that acknowledges, “this is not establishing any future expectations or diminishing any of the district’s statuary or legal obligation to provide these services.”
Councilmember John Scarboro said he would also like to see more information on the population of the Monroe Correctional Complex, which the council can decide to include in the per capita payment or not. Interim City Administrator David Moseley said he and Lell will look into the council’s requests and provide more information during an upcoming meeting.