Diverting $10 million from Metro would add to 600,000 hours of service cuts necessary to balance transit budget
StoryA plan by four members of the Metropolitan King County Council to avoid criminal justice cuts by diverting $10 million from Metro and $18.5 million from the voter-approved parks levy was met with disapproval today by Larry Phillips, chair of the Council’s Environment and Transportation Committee. Phillips has been working to fill a $120 million transit budget gap, one that will require cutting 600,000 annual service hours—17 percent of the system—plus 400,000 hours of planned service improvements by 2015.
“Public safety is important, but cutting away vital quality of life services like transit and parks isn’t the way to pay for it,” said Phillips. “In my Seattle district, employees and employers rely on transit for getting to work, while the Sheriff’s deputies they would have to pay for under this proposal only patrol unincorporated areas outside cities. This makes no sense for them.”
King County faces a $60 million general fund deficit in 2011, which the Sheriff has said would require cutting approximately 70 deputies who serve unincorporated King County. Phillips voted for an alternative proposal which would use funds collected through the unincorporated areas levy—currently dedicated to roads funding—to partially offset criminal justice cuts. That proposal failed to get the six votes necessary to go on the August ballot for voter consideration. The Council is now considering proposals to send to voters in November.
“Using the unincorporated levy to pay for criminal justice services in unincorporated areas is a much fairer approach because people living in cities will not be asked to raise their taxes to subsidize services for those living outside of cities,” said Phillips
A growing percentage of King County’s general fund has been spent to maintain criminal justice programs, which currently make up 76 percent of general fund expenditures, squeezing out other services like parks and human services. Phillips opposed a Sheriff’s deputy contract passed in 2008 which gave deputies 5 percent raises each year for five years, saying at the time that it was financially unsustainable.
Metro Transit service is funded through dedicated transit funding. Currently, Metro pays $10.7 million annually to the general fund to pay for transit police services throughout King County. The Republican proposal would cut an additional $10 million in transit funding in order to increase funding for criminal justice, resulting in transit service cuts.