McCarthy's budget proposal cuts spending 6.1%

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy submitted a 2011 budget proposal to the County Council Thursday that would reduce overall spending by 6.1 percent. Despite the spending cuts, the portion of the General Fund dedicated to public safety would increase from 76.6 percent in 2010 to 78.5 percent in 2011. The County Council expects to adopt a final budget in November.

Here are some highlights from McCarthy’s proposal:

— Total spending would drop $49.4 million, or 6.1 percent below 2010 levels, to $759.7 million. Most of the decrease can be attributed to a decline in federal and state grants and the reduction of capital project expenditures;

— The County would cut 43 staff positions, bringing the total number of cuts through layoffs and attrition since 2008 to 459;

— The General Fund – the account funded primarily by sales and property taxes and containing the most flexibility – would increase by just 0.4 percent.

— The County would realize some efficiencies by closing two facilities in Tacoma – the old Puget Sound Hospital on Pacific Avenue and the District Court facility on Hosmer Street.

One major project that’s under way is the merger of the departments of Community Services and Human Services. McCarthy anticipates the combined departments will deliver better services to more people once the departments are fully integrated. In addition, a study of the feasibility of merging operations in Public Works and Utilities with Planning and Land Services is expected to be completed in spring 2011.

McCarthy noted that every County department has cut expenses. Among other things, staff furloughs in various departments have saved the County a total of $1.3 million since 2009.

In the coming weeks, McCarthy, her staff, department directors and the County’s other independently elected officials will appear at the Council’s budget hearings to review the spending proposals and revenue forecasts. The Council’s hearings will be aired on Pierce County TV (channel 22 on Comcast and Click!, and channel 78 on Rainier Connect). The hearings also will be streamed live and archived at .