Pierce County News –2000 Budget Keeps Most Programs at 1999 Levels

“Pierce County Executive Doug Sutherland submitted a 2000 budget proposal to the Pierce County Council this week that calls for public safety and justice services upgrades but for most county programs to continue at 1999 levels. The council begins budget hearings next week and may adopt the budget at their November 23 meeting, or later.Sutherland’s proposal for all budgets is $626,729,225, which is $43.3 million higher than this year. The 7.4 percent increase is due mostly to budgeting for the new jail construction project, according to the county.Most of the council’s attention between this week and mid November will be focused on the $185,645,730 general fund budget, which includes the majority of traditional county services. The general fund budget for 2000 is 4.5 percent higher than in 1999. That increase allows most programs to continue at 1999 levels and for priority services to be augmented, according to Sutherland.Most of the proposed upgrades are in the public safety and justice services sectors. Some of the major changes included in the 2000 preliminary budget are:- Nine new deputies and two new detectives for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Eight of the deputies and the detectives will be assigned to the east service area, while the other deputy will be added to the Harbor Detachment.- Two corrections officers will be added to reduce overtime. A computerized jail management system, at $1.6 million, and a one-time allocation for new jail transition costs, $1.7 million, are also included.- One legal assistant, one probation officer and a day reporting center for misdemeanor offenders, are included for the Probation Department.- One additional judge, two related staff positions and operating expenses for Superior Court.- Three juvenile division positions for Juvenile Court.- A reduction of one commissioner services and one legal assistant position in District Court No. One.- Three salmon-recovery positions and three positions to support the federal water quality discharge permit program are included for the Planning and Land Services Department. Also included is support for three additional land use advisory commissions.- One cartographer position for the Assessor-Treasurer Office.- One additional auto licensing position for the Auditor’s Office.- For Parks and Recreation, $109,000 for the South Hill Park project and a $73,000 payment from Lakewood for half of the Fort Steilacoom Park maintenance expense.Sutherland decided against submitting a separate proposed budget for use if voters approve Initiative 695 this November 2.“The passage of Initiative 695 could have serious short- and long-term consequences for the county,” Sutherland said.Instead of submitting an alternative proposed budget that could be substituted if voters do approve I-695, Sutherland said he would rather have the council adopt a version of his proposed budget and hold off until March 2000 consideration of impacts of the initiative if it does pass. The wait would allow time for any I-695 activity that could occur in the Legislature or court system, he said.“Regardless of what happens with Initiative 695, something is going to be different in the year 2000 as a result of the Legislature addressing or not addressing the outcome of the initiative,” Sutherland said. He added that the initiative’s possible constitutional questions might further cloud the issue. “My sense is that the best approach is to come back (in March) and look at year-end reports, court reports, and legislative activity and then decide what direction to go.”The council will discuss at length the question of how to address I-695 related revenue issues during the upcoming budget review process. All county departments will make their budget cases during the council budget hearings.”