Life saving programs preserved through County employees giving up cost of living adjustments
StoryThe Budget Leadership Team of the Metropolitan King County Council today released a preliminary 2011 King County Budget that reflects the painful choices made to produce a balanced budget, but restores funding for some vital criminal justice services and programs that assist survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
The $5.1 billion budget includes a $621 million general fund budget, of which 76 percent is directed toward public safety and criminal justice programs. The proposed budget protects the County’s AAA bond rating by not using the County’s cash reserves or tapping the rainy day fund.
“There were no easy cuts left in this budget,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, 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. This budget does all it can preserve the quality of life in our communities and protect our most vulnerable, while recognizing the fiscal challenges we will face in the coming years.”
“Reducing budgets means difficult choices among programs and people that provide meaningful services. Citizens and public officials debated these issues in committee hearings, on television, and in town hall meetings across the county so everyone would be well-informed about the significant challenges we face this year,” said Budget Vice Chair Kathy Lambert. “We scrutinized costs closely and found ways to be more efficient and economical while still providing necessary services to citizens. The result is a bi-partisan budget that maintains our $15 million rainy day fund along with our $31 million general fund cash reserves for emergencies.”
“This budget continues the Council's commitment to fund programs that are alternatives to incarceration. It is important, especially in dire economic times, that we continue these programs to stop our criminal justice expenses from becoming 100 percent of our general fund,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “I want to thank the people who came forward with their input to help us decide these priorities and especially our County employees who were the significant factor in saving so many of these vital services that protect the most vulnerable people in our county.”
The choices made to close the $60 million shortfall in the Budget will be felt throughout King County. Following the Budget Leadership Team’s theme of “Balancing the Budget, Sharing the Pain,” the proposed budget eliminates more than 300 county positions. The King County Sheriff will lose 28 deputies and County Prosecutors will lose 16 attorneys and those that remain will see an increase in their caseloads. In the Superior and District Courts, 28 positions were eliminated, reducing probation services in both courts, and shrinking the services provided by court clerks and court reporters. There is no funding available for the replacement of the County’s aging Youth Services Center.
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 Budget Leadership Teams’ budget, a 124-page document that sets the County spending plan for 2011, preserves programs that prevent domestic violence and sexual assault by investing a portion of the savings created by County employees giving up their cost of living adjustments (COLAs). All but one County bargaining unit, the King County Sheriff Deputies, agreed to give up their negotiated COLAs, preserving $23.5 million in services across all county agencies for 2011. Of that amount, $6.1 million of the savings was in the general fund, making it available to provide limited funding to these programs. Funds were also made available to maintain, Step Up, a program that assists families impacted by juvenile domestic violence.
In all, the COLA concessions allowed the Budget Team to save or partially save 8 Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys, public defenders, corrections officers, alternatives to incarceration programs and other vital public safety services. The Budget Team also worked with the Superior Court to preserve funding for family services provided by the court, such as mediation, parent coaching and evaluation and child advocacy to troubled families.
“Many of those units didn’t have to come back to the table. They made the decision to return raises that by contract they were entitled to,” said Patterson. “We want to recognize what they did and thank our county employees for agreeing to share the pain during this difficult process to protect these life saving programs.”
“On behalf of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, I want to thank the King County Council,” said Mary Ellen Stone Executive Director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. “The funding restored by the Council will ensure that many crime victims will get the services they need to put their lives back together.”
While there will be a reduction in the number of Sheriff deputies, the proposed budget directs the sheriff to maintain two deputies that will focus on the investigation of property crimes in unincorporated King County. It also restores positions in the Sheriff’s Office using savings associated with the sheriff employees that did agree to forgo their cost of living adjustments: a fire investigator, a records and evidence specialist and 3 communications officers in the 911 operations center. The proposed budget also includes $1.5 million in funding that will be held in reserve to allow the County to quickly respond to emerging criminal justice and public safety needs in 2011.
The over 400 people who testified at the five public hearings and emailed Councilmembers on the Executive Proposed 2011 budget played a role in the budget striker. Committee members heard from a number of supporters for program such as Step Up, and the examples presented about how these services save lives spurred members to find the funds needed to keep them operating.
The striker is being presented to the Budget Committee for a vote earlier than expected. Traditionally, the Council adopts the King County Budget the Monday before Thanksgiving, so today’s release of the striker is a week ahead of the schedule set by the Budget Chair. All the members of the leadership team acknowledge that the early release of the striker is the result of the collaborative effort between the budget team and the Executive budget staff throughout the last seven weeks of negotiations.
“We’ve been working with Executive Constantine and Budget Director Dively throughout the year on the challenges we knew were going to be part of the 2011 Budget process,” said Patterson. “We’ve gotten our work done, resolved the issues we had and produced a budget that the Executive said was responsible. We’re looking forward to today’s vote by the Budget Committee and if it’s adopted, we expect the full Council to take a final vote at its earliest possible date.”
|Read the full text of the Budget Committee's 2011 Budget proposal (PDF, 0.4M)|