Pierce County Council moves to fill $5M budget hole

Pierce County Council hopes to fill a more than $5 million hole in the county's 2010 budget with amendments the...

Pierce County Council hopes to fill a more than $5 million hole in the county’s 2010 budget with amendments the council will consider Tues., April 6 at its 3 p.m. meeting.

Approved by the council’s Rules and Operations Committee Monday, the proposed supplemental budget cuts expenses by $4.2 million and add other savings, for a total reduction of $5.4 million. County revenues continue to fall short of projections, particularly the proceeds from sales and property taxes (down $2.6 million), licenses and permits (down $500,000) and charges for services (down $2.3 million).

“We’re hemorrhaging and we can’t continue to put Band-Aids on it,” Council Chair Roger Bush said. “This council was elected to protect our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, and this budget puts money where taxpayers say they want it.”

County residents have repeatedly told the council that removing deputies from the streets is not an option, Bush noted, so the Sheriff’s Department — including the Corrections Bureau — is the only general-fund department spared from reductions. Public safety comprises more than 50 percent of the general fund and remains the council’s top priority, he said.

“We are required to balance our budget,” Bush said, “so if we give back to one area we must take from another. Any one item has a direct connection to the number of sheriff’s deputies we can put on the street to protect our citizens.”

Besides reducing the amounts budgeted to county departments, the council proposal freezes county hiring, eliminates out-of-state travel and asks the executive to study the feasibility of contracting out its current Planning and Land Services Department functions to the private sector.

Councilmembers last November anticipated the need to re-examine the 2010 budget when they asked the executive to deliver across-the-board budget reduction scenarios of 1 percent and 3 percent to the council by Jan. 31. Those scenarios were never received, but on March 4 the county’s budget and finance office directing elected officials and department directors to reduce their expenses by 1 percent.

The County Charter invests the council with the authority to govern all of the county’s budget matters. The council twice amended the 2009 budget last year due to the ongoing drop in revenues, and Bush cautioned that the council could be forced to re-visit this year’s budget again in mid-summer if the situation doesn’t improve.

“I could make a case for lessening the impact on any of these programs individually,” Bush said. “But every program must be viewed as part of the overall picture — and unfortunately, that picture is not a pretty one.”

Pierce County TV will rebroadcast Monday’s Rules and Operations Committee meeting on channel 22 Tuesday at 8 a.m., Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Thursday at 1 p.m. and at http://www.piercecountytv.org . It will be available in the video meeting archives later this week. Tuesday’s council meeting and all other regular meetings are held on the 10th floor of the County-City Building (930 Tacoma Ave. S., Room 1046) and will also be broadcast live and replayed on PCTV as well as streamed live and archived on its Web site.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of Pierce County’s budget, click on the following links:

Pierce County drops historic preservation officer (01/20/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1700764&more=0

Pierce County budget cuts close food safety program (12/18/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1684266&more=0

Major cuts to Pierce County’s 2010 budget (11/10/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1660230&more=0

Home stretch for Pierce County budget process (11/09/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1658084&more=0

Budget shortfall forces Health Department closures in 2010 (11/05/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1656521&more=0

‘Roller coaster’ economy taps Pierce County PALS budget (11/03/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1654044&more=0

Pierce County Executive’s budget proposal cuts 200 jobs, $70 million in spending (09/22/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1628887&more=0

Budget amendment bitter-sweet for Pierce County historic preservation (03/20/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1512898&more=0

Department shift for Pierce County’s historic preservation program? (03/16/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1509016&more=0

Pierce County Council Committee will discuss proposed historic preservation funding cuts (03/06/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1503447&more=0

Will $8 million budget shortfall touch Pierce County historic preservation? (01/29/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1479375&more=0

Pierce County Council budget action begins today (11/12/08) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1416057&more=0

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