Public safety, criminal justice services bulk of Pierce County budget proposal

Pierce County would hold the line on spending in 2012, including no cost-of-living adjustments for employees or elected officials, under a budget proposal Executive Pat McCarthy unveiled on Tuesday. The Executive’s proposal dedicates approximately 79 percent of the $273 million General Fund to public safety and criminal justice services. That’s up from 76.6 percent in 2010.

“This budget is the result of careful analysis, tough decisions and partnerships with our employees,” Executive McCarthy said. “This is a responsible and stable budget that protects core services while continuing investments in parks and other programs that contribute to healthy communities.”

The Executive presented her budget proposal to the County Council on Tuesday. The seven-member Council plans to hold public hearings next month before adopting a final 2012 spending plan in November.

Under the Executive’s proposal, total spending would be $799 million, which is $2.7 million below the 2011 level, and $91 million below the 2008 level; the county would cut 46 positions, bringing the total number of reductions since 2008 to 487; and all employees would forgo a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for the first time since the early 1980s. Just over half of the collective bargaining units have agreed to that so far. Last week, the County Council approved the Executive’s proposal to eliminate the automatic COLA for elected officials that’s been set in ordinance for years.

“Every day, our employees rise to the challenges presented by our local and national economic troubles,” Executive McCarthy said. “They know these are difficult times, and I appreciate their willingness to help us control costs while delivering outstanding service.” Her budget, which keeps the equivalent of 10 percent of the General Fund in savings, assumes the economy will remain sluggish. “This budget is based on conservative, realistic revenue projections. I know people are seeing the headlines about huge financial problems at the state and federal levels. Here in Pierce County, we have been making strategic reductions for three years and are managing our way through these tough economic times. At the same time, we are able to fund parks, including the planned opening of Sprinker Recreation Center’s renovated ice arena, as well as economic development initiatives that target industry clusters, such as companies that specialize in clean water technologies.”

The Executive’s 2012 budget proposal is available online at . In the coming weeks, the Council will hold hearings that will be televised on Pierce County TV (channel 22 on Comcast and Click!, and channel 78 on Rainier Connect). The hearings also will be streamed live and archived at .

The Council will announce a schedule for the hearings as soon as dates are confirmed.