Council takes the lead by cutting 10 percent of its own costs
Presented with the kind of recession-era budget proposal faced by governments across the nation, budget leaders on the Metropolitan King County Council today committed to cutting costs and making the tough choices needed to close a $56 million shortfall in the 2010 King County Budget.
“Today we face new financial realities, and our job is clear. We must cut costs while protecting those services the public deems most vital,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, Chair of the Council’s 2010 Budget Leadership Team. “Nearly every program and agency throughout King County is facing a financial crisis. We thank County Executive Kurt Triplett for his honest and transparent proposal that addresses much of what we have discussed over the last five months.”
The Executive’s proposed $4.8 billion budget includes a $621 million General Fund, more than three-fourths of which is targeted for law, justice and public safety services.
The budget leaders set the tone for the budget process by calling for a 10 percent reduction in the budget of the Council itself. Half of the potential $1.5 million savings will come from the elimination of five management or policy staff.
“I had to tell two members of the Council staff with young families that their positions were being eliminated due to the Council’s commitment to flattening its organization, reducing mid-level management and achieving significant cost savings,” said Councilmember Jane Hague, Vice Chair of the Budget Leadership Team. “These are painful times, but we are prepared to make the hard choices in the least painful way we can.”
Hague said the leadership team is also listening to County employees who may have ideas on how to deliver public services more efficiently, by setting up a special e-mail account at email@example.com. “Nobody knows better how we can cut costs and save money than the frontline staff with first-hand knowledge of how things get done. I can assure you that all nine members of the Council will be listening to their ideas and suggestions,” said Hague.
Councilmember Kathy Lambert said her goal will be to ensure that funds for criminal justice and public safety continue to support those programs that have proven to be successful in breaking the cycle of crime.
“This is a basic budget that keeps people safe, while funding treatment and prevention programs such as our nationally recognized Drug Court and Mental Health Court,” said Lambert, who will chair the budget team’s Criminal Justice and General Government Panel. “Our longstanding policies to support alternatives to incarceration have led to a projected 300 fewer inmates in our jail next year, saving significant funds and making a real difference in people’s lives.”
Even with this difficult budget, the Council recognizes the County’s commitment to human service programs and will work to protect the most vulnerable in our region, according to Councilmember Julia Patterson, who will chair the budget team’s Health and Human Services Panel. All $11.4 million in General Fund monies for human services are eliminated in the Executive’s proposed budget, but other revenues, including the sales tax for mental illness and drug dependency treatment, will sustain $7.7 million worth of housing, treatment and crisis intervention programs.
“We have a moral imperative to support these programs,” said Patterson. “We have not yet seen a full list of what specific programs are funded and which are cut, but we must maintain funding for those human services that keep our jail populations down and people out of emergency rooms.”
Gossett said the leadership team called on the Executive to propose a 2010 budget that did not include across-the-board cuts but targeted reductions, and which prioritized criminal justice agencies. “We still have questions about how Executive Triplett proposes to achieve some of the proposed cuts, but we have the next eight weeks to get the answers we need.”
Gossett today released the schedule of four public hearings the Budget Committee will host to take public comment on the 2010 budget. The four public hearings will be held:
• Wednesday, October 7 - Bellevue City Council Chambers, 450 110th Ave. NE, Bellevue
• Tuesday, October 13 - Maleng Regional Justice Center, Courtroom 3F, 401 4th Avenue North, Kent
• Thursday, October 22 - Redmond City Council Chambers, 15670 NE 85th Street, Redmond
• Thursday, October 29 - King County Council Chambers, 516 Third Avenue, Room 1000, Seattle
All meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. Day-after coverage of the public hearings will be available both online and on King County TV, seen on Comcast and Broadstripe Cable Channel 22. You can also sign up to follow the deliberations through the Council’s 2010 Budget Blog and Twitter.
The County Council is scheduled to adopt the final 2010 budget on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Follow the Council’s deliberations through Twitter and our 2010 Budget Blog by visiting the King County Council Budget Web site