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Pierce County faces $6 million budget hole

Post by David Wickert on March 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
March 9, 2010 4:00 pm

Pierce County faces a $6 million budget hole as the worst recession in decades continues to take a toll on county revenue.

County Executive Pat McCarthy has directed most general fund departments to cut spending 1 percent to partially fill the budget gap. The county also might rely on fund balances and other savings to balance the budget.

But bigger spending cuts may be needed.

“The sooner you do it, the less dramatic it has to be,” budget director Pat Kenney told the County Council at a study session this afternoon.

It’s the latest bad budget news for a county that has seen plenty in the last year.

In 2009 the county endured several rounds of budget cuts. Most recently, the council in November approved a $793 million 2010 budget that cut more than 300 jobs, raised fees and eliminated services at 16 parks.

This year’s budget is already 7 percent smaller than the original 2009 spending plan. Now it likely will be reduced further.

In a memo to department heads and elected officials last week, Kenney directed most general fund departments to cut 1 percent from their budgets. The general fund covers basic county services like law enforcement, courts, and elections.

The sheriff’s department – a top priority for elected officials – has not been asked to cut its budget. But McCarthy told the council that may change as the county’s financial situation becomes clearer.

As in the past, declining revenue is driving the cuts. Sales tax receipts have fallen as consumers spend less. Permit fee income has declined as a building slump continues. Cash-strapped local cities are paying the county less to provide law enforcement services.

There are some signs county revenue might rebound. McCarthy told the council that sales tax receipts rose in February.

“The bad news is, the trend is, we’re still behind,” she said.

It may be another month before the county finalizes the latest budget cuts. The council – which wants to put its own stamp on any cuts – is scheduled to consider a revised budget on April 6.

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