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Council adopts 2011 King County Budget that reflects sacrifice, savings, and public safety


Employees forgoing cost of living adjustments provides savings directed toward basic services


The Metropolitan King County Council today adopted a $5.1 billion 2011 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.

The adopted 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.

“King County government made the difficult choices necessary to balance our budget. We went through this budget line-by-line to cut spending in the most responsible way possible, just as many individuals and families everywhere are doing with their own household budgets,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “Given the fiscal challenges we are facing, this budget does all it can to protect public safety, maintain the quality of life in our communities, and protect our most vulnerable residents.”

“The budget cuts this year have been softened by the willingness of our labor partners/employees to ‘share the pain,’” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, Vice Chair of the Budget Leadership Team. “We are most grateful to our county bargaining units that agreed to forego cost-of-living increases for 2011. This allowed us to create a $1.5 million emergency reserve fund for criminal justice needs, as well as to restore domestic violence and sexual assault funding and special court advocate programs that help people survive in turbulent times.”

“We had to make extremely difficult choices in this budget and use our limited resources to protect as many residents of King County as possible,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, a member of the Budget Leadership Team. “Law enforcement is an important aspect of providing public safety in our communities. However, public safety also includes providing human services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, alternatives to incarceration programs to reduce the numbers of people in the King County jail, and public health clinics to provide essential medical care to the most marginalized in our community. That is the true meaning of public safety.”

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. 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. There is no general fund contribution to services for at-risk mothers, early learning or after school programs.

The 2011 budget 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 Council to save or partially save eight Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys, as well as public defenders, corrections officers, alternatives to incarceration programs and other vital public safety services. Working with the Superior Court, the Council also preserved funding for family services provided by the court, such as mediation, parent coaching and evaluation and child advocacy to troubled families.

“This balanced budget reflects the consensus of seven Council members representing a wide political spectrum,” said Council Chair Bob Ferguson. “These seven members worked throughout the process, never quitting despite difficult negotiations, and agreed on a budget consistent with this tough economy.”

“This is a painful budget made more manageable by the vast majority of King County employees’ willingness to sacrifice cost of living wages they were legally entitled to in order to preserve public services and jobs,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “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.”

“This was an extremely difficult budget—by far the most difficult budget I’ve dealt with in the 17 years I’ve been involved in local government,” said Councilmember Jan Drago. “I was very impressed with the level of collaboration from my County Council colleagues and from Executive Dow Constantine these last eight weeks, and together, we were able to work through these daunting challenges because of our commitment to public service and our willingness to collaborate.”

Highlights of the 2011 Budget:

King County Sheriff Office:
The adopted budget restores several positions in the Sheriff’s office using savings from sheriff captains and court protection marshals that agreed to forgo their cost of living adjustment increase for 2011. These positions include a fire investigator, a records and evidence specialist, and two communications operators in the 911 call center. The budget also directs the sheriff to prioritize the equivalent of two deputy positions for investigation of property crimes.

Criminal Justice Reserve: To balance the budget, the council made necessary cuts to the criminal justice agencies. The adopted budget has $1.5 million in reserve to ensure that the county is in position to quickly respond to the most pressing and emergent criminal justice and public safety needs in 2011.

Protecting the Vulnerable: Along with the county’s continuing support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, the budget takes a proactive approach to the growing youth prostitution problem, providing shelter beds that will help take youths off the streets, away from prostitution.

AAA Bond rating: The credit rating agencies recently reaffirmed the county's AAA bond rating. Through fiscal restraint, the council has not spent any of the county’s $15 million rainy day fund or any of its six percent cash reserve, which amounts to an additional $31 million in reserves. These cash reserves prepare the county for unforeseen emergencies and are vital to maintain the county's high credit rating, which saves taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

Read the full 2011 King County Budget (PDF, 0.3M)

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