Pierce County Executive's budget proposal cuts 200 jobs, $70 million in spending

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy submitted a 2010 budget to the County Council today that would make substantial spending cuts in the category known as “Miscellaneous Current Expense” — a catch-all category that has typically funded contributions to neighborhood and civic groups that use the money for historic preservation, arts, cultural activities, entertainment; dues to such membership organizations as the Washington State Association of Counties; support for such nonprofit agencies as Safe Streets and senior centers; and other needs. McCarthy’s budget proposes to cut this miscellaneous category by $900,000, or 24 percent.

Under the Executive’s proposal, more than 200 County jobs would be cut next year, and some programs would be consolidated, reduced or eliminated. Criminal justice, which accounts for three quarters of County spending, would be protected from proportionate cuts. And the budget would fund initiatives aimed at business and job growth that would help the local economy rebound.

The County Council has scheduled a series of budget hearings over the coming weeks to review the proposed spending plan for next year. Final approval is scheduled for Nov. 10.

In her address to the Council, McCarthy noted the following:

— The County’s assessed valuation total is projected to decrease from the prior year — from $92.6 billion in 2009 to $88.6 billion in 2010.

— The County is considering a reduction in the General Fund budget. The Executive’s proposal cuts the General Fund by 2.6 percent, from $277.8 million to $270.6 million.

— When factoring in total County spending, the Executive’s budget reduces spending by $70 million, which is 8 percent below the 2009 budget.

— The Executive’s budget proposes to cut 109 jobs that are funded by the General Fund. The total increases to 285 jobs when positions funded by other accounts are added. That would leave the total County workforce at 3,106 positions, down 11 percent from the peak of 3,488 in 2008.

— In addition to the staff cuts, at least eight departments that are funded by the General Fund are budgeting for staff furloughs in 2010.

McCarthy asked her department heads and the county’s independently elected sheriff, prosecuting attorney, assessor-treasurer and judges to make recommendations regarding what to cut from their budgets. The cuts are not proportional to the amount of funding a department or service area receives. For example, criminal justice services consume 76 percent of General Fund spending, but the proposed cuts in those programs equal just 53 percent of the total spending cuts.

The Parks and Recreation Department proposes to eliminate services at 16 parks, including Breseman Forest, Mayfair Park, Swan Creek, Seeley Lake and the Purdy Sand Spit. Services would be reduced at 13 park sites, including Sprinker Recreation Center, Lakewood Community Center, Lake Tapps County Park, Foothills Trail, and Sunrise Beach.

Over the next seven weeks, McCarthy, some of her department directors and the County’s other independently elected leaders will meet with the Council to review the spending proposals and revenue forecasts in detail. The Council’s budget hearings are broadcast live on C-RCC TV (channel 22 on Comcast and Click!, and channel 78 on Rainier Connect). Council meetings are also streamed live at http://www.rcc.pierce.wa.us/ .