Pierce County Council begins budget discussions

With an eye toward protecting public safety and criminal justice services, Pierce County Councilmembers have begun a nearly two-month study of the county’s proposed 2009 budget.

The slowing local economy and declining county revenues are challenges that shaped Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg’s $851.6 million budget proposal, which was delivered Sept. 23 and serves as a starting point for the council’s discussions.

In a difficult budget year, Council Chair Terry Lee said the council’s top priority is to avoid making significant cuts to the departments that keep county residents safe.

“The current economic climate means there are no easy budget decisions this year,” Lee said. “However, compromising our county’s ability to perform its primary missions — public safety and criminal justice — isn’t an option.”

County revenues have declined since the second half of 2007. The reduction has impacted sales taxes, development fees, interest revenues and property taxes from new construction.

The council’s budget schedule includes:

— budget retreat sessions on Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28, from 9 to 11:30 a.m.;

— Committee of the Whole hearings on Nov. 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 and 24, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 4 p.m.; and

— final action scheduled for the Nov. 25 council meeting, 3 p.m.

All sessions will be in the Council Chambers on the 10th floor of the County-City Building (930 Tacoma Ave. S., Room 1045) in Tacoma. For more on the proposed 2009 budget, visit http://www.piercecountywa.gov/xml/abtus/plans/09PrelimBudget/01-message.pdf .