King County Council adopts budget that shares the pain but saves some services from chopping block
November 15, 2010
By Dan Catchpole
NEW — 11:57 p.m. Nov. 15, 2010
The council’s budget team, which consists of council members, restored money for some vital criminal justice services, and programs that assist survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Criminal justice and public safety services make up 76 percent of the budget’s $621 million general fund. Most of the budget’s $5.1 billion is for dedicated expenditures.
The budget protects the county’s AAA bond rating by not using cash reserves or tapping the rainy day fund.
“There were no easy cuts left in this budget,” said Councilwoman Julia Patterson in a news release. Patterson is chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.
“King County government is not immune to the realities faced by individuals and families everywhere who are tightening their belts and finding creative ways to spend their money,” she said.
Residents’ testimony at public hearings pushed the budget team to restore money for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“We scrutinized costs closely and found ways to be more efficient and economical while still providing necessary services to citizens,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert said in the release. Lambert, who represents Snoqualmie Valley, was the budget committee’s vice chair.
Under the budget cuts will be made to criminal justice and public safety.
The budget eliminates 300 county positions, some of which are currently vacant. The reductions include 28 deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Office and 16 attorneys from the prosecutor’s office. In the Superior and District Courts, 28 positions were eliminated.
Human Service programs that traditionally received some county support were also cut in the 2011 budget. There is no general fund contribution to services for at-risk mothers, early learning or after school programs.
The cuts could have been deeper, though.
“The budget cuts this year have been softened by the willingness of our labor partners/employees to ‘share the pain,’” Lambert said in a release.
The county saved money when all but one collective bargaining group agreed to give up cost of living adjustments, or COLAs. All non-union staff will not receive COLAs next year, too. The King County Police Officers’ Guild, which represents sheriff’s deputies, was the only bargaining unit to not waive its raise.
The county saved about $23.5 million, $6.1 million of which came from the general fund.
The money was used to preserve programs to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.
“We’re adopting a responsible budget plan given the economic climate that we’re dealing with, but it will mean King County residents—particularly the most vulnerable—will have less access to services,” Councilman Larry Phillips said in a news release.