Pierce County Council finalizes 2008 budget

Public safety appears to define the 2008 Pierce County budget approved by the County Council Nov. 20.
The $863.3 million budget makes investments in childrens’ social-service programs and in the Sheriff’s Department and Corrections Bureau. It is composed of the $284.9 million General Fund — which pays for most county services with revenue from property and sales taxes and fees — and more than 60 smaller, self-supporting funds.
A budget amendment requires the county executive to suggest further budget reductions if the economy worsens in the first few months of 2008. If he doesn’t, the council will propose its own reductions.
In children’s social-service programs, the council increased funding for United Way Early Learning, Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, and Community Health Care, which is building its new Eastside Clinic in the Salishan neighborhood. It allocates funds for Parks & Recreation Services’ new special-education programs, which will provide activities for children with developmental disabilities.
In public safety, the council accelerated the funding of a new judge in Superior Court by three months to help address a growing case backlog. Councilmembers added two additional sheriff’s deputies and restored funding for Safe Streets, a nonprofit group that helps neighbors band together to prevent crime.
Council provisos in the budget request the Sheriff’s Department to begin planning for a new Pierce County jail and to propose more alternatives to incarceration.
Another proviso declares that $575,000 originally designated for the Prometa drug-treatment program can only be spent — by special council resolution — on evidence-based programs or services that decrease the current jail’s population and help break the cycle of drug addiction.