Pierce County Council approves 2013 budget

Pierce County Council voted Tuesday to adopt a budget for 2013 that reduces general-government spending.

The budget, approved on a 7-0 vote, does not include a cost-of-living adjustment for employees. Rather, it spends a portion of that savings to alleviate some cuts in the Sheriff’s Department.

“Above all, this budget demonstrates our commitment to public safety,” said Councilmember Joyce McDonald. “This is a responsible and fiscally sound budget. We must remain mindful of the ongoing uncertainty about the economy, which is why we cannot in good faith include a cost-of-living adjustment for employees or elected officials.”

The General Fund, which pays for most general government services, would drop from $275.6 million this year to $274.8 million in 2013. Total spending amounts to $894 million, which represents a boost of more than $50 million, mostly due to the major expansion of the Chambers Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Among other things, the budget package would restore four of the vacant positions the County Executive had proposed cutting in the Sheriff’s Department, at a cost of $400,000; increase spending on parks maintenance by $180,000; reduce county employment by 42 positions, including 26 in the General Fund. By the end of next year, the county will have cut about 15 percent of its workforce since 2008; reduce surface water management fees by $5 per single family residence to help offset the impact of a property tax recently approved by the Flood Control Zone District; and set aside an additional $826,000 in savings in case the economy worsens.

“This budget keeps Pierce County on the path of steady fiscal management that maintains stability and security for our communities,” said Councilmember Rick Talbert.

The budget now goes to County Executive Pat McCarthy, who has 10 days from its arrival in her office to sign or veto the measure. More information is available online here.