Prioritizing biggest expense in county budget
StoryIn response to continuing challenge with the King County budget, Metropolitan King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert today proposed policies that prioritize cost savings for labor, which is the largest expense category in King County’s budget.
“Currently, our labor contracts are for terms up to six years, which results in county employees receiving raises during economic recessions when most citizens are forced to cut back,” said Lambert. “With more than 80 percent of King County’s labor force represented by unions, it is important to build flexibility and responsiveness into our labor contracts.
“Tough economic times call for a reasoned, logical approach to budgeting that focuses on finding savings rather than finding new money, especially in a time of recession,” Councilmember Lambert added. “With these significant budget cuts throughout the past two years, we need to prioritize our labor policies in order to support our hard-working employees and continue to serve our citizens while reducing labor costs.”
The legislation adds three requirements for King County’s labor bargaining authority, which is vested in the Executive’s Office by the King County Charter, the county’s constitution:
• Current policy requires a 2-percent minimum annual cost-of-living adjustment, regardless of whether the Consumer Price Index rises by that much. The proposed policy change lowers the minimum to zero percent while maintaining the maximum at the current 6 percent.
• The motion requires new labor contracts to include a reopener clause in the event that county revenues are projected to remain flat or to decline in the next calendar year.
• The proposal also outlines broader labor expenditure savings strategies during a recession, to include:
o No cost-of-living adjustment
o Increase employee contributions for health care benefits
o No step increases
o Reductions in wages and salaries
o Unpaid furlough days
“An important objective of this labor policy is to minimize reductions in the level and quality of services to the public in times of declining revenue,” Councilmember Lambert added. “Ultimately, this will help bring balance between labor and management staffing and resources, prevent more layoffs by saving on labor costs, and reduce the need to raise more tax revenue.”