directed toward basic services
StoryOn November 15, the Metropolitan King County Council adopted a $5.1 billion King County Budget that reflects the painful choices made to produce a balanced budget, but maintains core public safety services and protects survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as well as children in crisis with Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs).
“This budget maintains our $15 million rainy day fund along with our $31 million general fund cash reserves for emergencies,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who served on the Budget Leadership Team. “Because of responsible budgeting, the credit rating institutions continue to give us AAA rating, which few jurisdictions in the country attain. A high credit rating saves the taxpayers millions of dollars annually.”
Following the Budget Leadership Team’s theme of “Balancing the Budget- Sharing the Pain,” the cuts made to close the $60 million shortfall in the 2011 budget will be felt throughout King County. More than 300 county positions have been eliminated.
“This year, for the first time, the general fund will include a $1.5 million reserve fund for emergencies and unforeseen costs related to criminal justice,” said Councilmember Lambert, who proposed the reserve fund. “The general fund is the only source of funding for our criminal justice system, which now makes up 77 percent of the general fund.”
Human services programs that traditionally received some county support were also cut, but the Council restored funding for critical programs that help people survive turbulent times by investing a portion of the savings from County employees who agreed to give up their cost of living adjustments (COLAs).
“We are most grateful to our county employees who agreed to forego cost-of-living increases for 2011,” said Councilmember Lambert. “We also were able to use savings from labor pay concessions to continue operating the senior guardianship program as well as the CASA program, which uses volunteers to help steer children through dependency proceedings. We also were able to restore funding for life-saving domestic violence and sexual assault services.
“Another priority is maintaining funding for local government service,” Councilmember Lambert added. “Those living in unincorporated rural areas depend on King County for local government programs such as roads maintenance, agriculture and forestry services. We were able to maintain the roads funding level and restore some funding for programs that support the economic viability of our farms and forests.”
Councilmember Lambert praised the budget deliberation process, which involved hearing testimony from hundreds of citizens at committee and town hall meetings as well as collaboration with the Executive’s budget office.
“We came together in a collaborative manner with more transparency than ever on the process of negotiating, investigating, and analyzing revenues and expenses, which is what our citizens told us they want,” she said. “These substantive cuts will affect the level of service that King County can provide, but we are asking our employees to do more with less. This budget is an adjustment to new financial realities that will focus on efficiency and providing as many services as we can within available dollars.”