Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy has elected not to veto the County Council’s proposed 2010 budget despite concerns that it cuts too deeply.
McCarthy notified the council this morning that she had signed several ordinances related to next year’s budget.
Despite signing the ordinances, McCarthy renewed her objection to the council’s steep cuts to the planning department, which will lose about two dozen positions next year.
“I am concerned that the additional cuts made by the County Council could cause unreasonable backlogs for our citizens,” McCarthy wrote to the council. “I believe it is imperative that we have staffing levels that will help with timely, predictable processing of building permits.”
McCarthy has proposed a deal that would allow the planning department to rehire some employees if the local real estate market picks up and the department needs more people to process building permits. One issue that must be decided is what level of increased activity would “trigger” rehiring staff.
“I am hopeful that we can reach agreement on trigger language that would allow us to allocate additional resources to (the planning department) during 2010,” McCarthy wrote. “This would be conditioned on (department) revenues exceeding 2010 projections.”
You can download a PDF copy of McCarthy’s letter here.
Last month the council unanimously approved a $269.3 million general fund budget that is 7 percent smaller than the 2009 budget approved a year ago. The 2010 budget would cut more than 300 jobs, eliminate services at 16 parks and otherwise cut spending.
The budget also raises a variety of fees. For example, the basic monthly sewer charge for a single-family residence will rise 15 percent to $29.65.
The council budget largely mirrors the preliminary spending plan McCarthy recommended in September. But the executive expressed concerns, especially about the deep planning department cuts. She had held out the possibility of vetoing the budget. Today was the last day she could have taken that action.
McCarthy’s decision caps a year of cost-cutting brought on by recession-related declines in sales tax and other revenue. But more cuts may be on the way.
The council has asked McCarthy to report back in January on how she would cut the budget an additional 1 percent and 3 percent, if revenue continues to decline.
“While I am hopeful that 2010 will see our local economy begin to rebound, we must remain cautious in our revenue forecast and prudent in our expenditures,” McCarthy wrote to the council.