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Pierce council may trim budget $5.4 million

Post by David Wickert on April 5, 2010 at 2:59 pm with 15 Comments »
April 5, 2010 2:59 pm

The Pierce County Council may trim spending by $5.4 million as the county wrestles with declining revenue.

The council also may freeze county hiring, ban most out-of-state travel and eliminate non-mandatory training to help balance the budget.

The proposal likely would mean layoffs in the planning department and cuts to such programs as 4-H and the Pierce County Fair. But spending on law enforcement and corrections would be spared under a plan approved by the council’s rules committee Monday. The full council will consider the measure Tuesday.

“It’s simply hard choices on top of hard choices,” council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, said

Roger Bush

at Monday’s committee meeting.

It’s been a year of hard choices for Pierce County.

The council twice reduced spending in 2009. In November it approved a $793 million 2010 budget that was 7 percent lower than the 2009 budget approved a year earlier.

The council cut more than 300 jobs, raised fees and eliminated services at 16 parks to balance this year’s spending plan. But it apparently wasn’t enough.

The latest revenue figures show sales tax receipts and planning department fees and charges.

Exactly how much they’re down is a subject of debate between the County Council and County Executive Pat McCarthy.

McCarthy has proposed a plan to cover a projected $4.1 million revenue shortfall in the county’s $269.3 million general fund.

Her solution: a 1 percent spending cut for most general fund departments, except the sheriff’s department and corrections. The executive also would use nearly $1.5 million in fund balances to help cover the deficit.

Bush’s plan, sent to elected officials Friday, anticipates a $5.4 million revenue shortfall. It cuts deeper and relies on only $484,000 in fund balances.

McCarthy criticized the council for unveiling the budget proposal on the Friday before Easter without having discussed it with her. She asked the council to postpone a final decision on the budget until next week.

“I don’t think we are in crisis,” McCarthy told the council, urging them to use “a scalpel as opposed to a hatchet.”

Bush said the council has been transparent and Friday’s release of the proposed budget cuts was earlier than in the past. And he noted the executive did not comply with a council request to provide plans for budget cuts of 1 percent and 3 percent back in January.

Numerous people representing various departments and public constituencies asked the council to reconsider spending cuts.

Several people from the Washington State University Pierce County Extension program testified that a proposed $200,000 cut – a 49 percent reduction in county funding – could decimate programs like 4-H and technical assistance to farmers. And a proposed $1.6 million (11.6 percent) cut to the planning department could mean 30 lost jobs, according to department director Chuck Kleeberg.

Bush said he could make a case preserving any individual program. But he said the council must consider its spending priorities in light of declining income, just like any family must.

Nonetheless, the council likely will amend the final proposal at its meeting Tuesday.

“Everything’s still on the table,” Bush said.

Leave a comment Comments → 15
  1. tomwa007 says:

    You have to cut somewhere. In times like this we all have to live with less, I sure have.

  2. nonstopjoe says:

    But there will always be “sacred cows” to be fed – such as $2.5 million to sate the voracious appetite of Chambers Bay Golf Course (for out-of-town hi-rollers). Wonder where the next “meal” is going to come from?

  3. mchawkeye says:

    How much has the Council cut from their department’s budget?

    What do we actually get from the Council for the $700,000 that the Council members collect in salary (other than the vendetta against the County Executive and Planning and Land Services)? They seem to be just a waste of tax payers dollars and are just redundancies of other productive elected officials.

    Why don’t they just sell Chambers Bay and balance the budget for years to come?

    Easter is over and so is Bunney ( you lost the election, get over it).

  4. bribrandt says:

    For all of the talk of making government more efficient why cut WSU extension when it brings in Millions of dollars in grants and other support to the county? Isn’t the investment of$ 400,000 worth the millions of dollars in grants and over 3,000,000 dollars in volunteer time that WSU brings to the county? Are we willing to lose that economic development? Are we willing to lose the benefit to our youth of 4-H?

  5. RustyJohn74 says:

    Although my opinion is absolutely arbitrary, a great way to start balancing the budget would be to ax as many upper level managers as possible. Nothing like a bunch of overpaid bureaucrats getting paid ridiculous sums of money to create more rules and procedures for middle management and workers to follow. They justify their relevance by creating as many TPS reports as possible.

    As a side note, anyone know how much money the city of Tacoma wastes on code enforcement? I see an entire parking garage off of Pacific filled with bright new cars and trucks for code enforcement and 3/4s of them just sit there all day costing the taxpayer the price of the new car, insurance, and parking fees.

    We’ve had the dot.com bubble, the housing bubble, now we need to burst the government bubble.

  6. mattersnot1 says:

    RustyJohn,
    I’m with you. Cut the code enforcement officers and several other over paid personnel in the planning and building departments.
    .
    If the county had any brains, they would cut the red tape and lower the cost of building permits and inspections. They would discover that there would be an increase in building, especially in remodels, thereby, generating more revenue.
    .
    Have you ever seen a file on just one building permit? Its huge and most of it is unnecessary paperwork.

  7. Daisydog says:

    Pierce county has a fair? hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  8. chip98404 says:

    Pierce County has a wonderful Fair! You should check it out August 12-15 in Graham at Frontier Park.

  9. chip98404 says:

    It is amazing that the Council threatens to eliminate the WSU Extension with all the good they do for the community and the millions they bring in with grants AND eliminate the 4-H program that benefits over 18,000 Pierce County youth of all ages and economic strata, and yet preserves Chambers Creek that will benefit so few and also avoids all cuts to the Council. The $250,000 it would take to keep 4-H going can surely be found in the budget. Please contact your councilman and Roger Bush to let them know how big a mistake this would be!

  10. You can surely bet Bush’s $100,000 sign removal program will stay in place … with no fines being paid by those who litter in his district.

    And being a “fiscally conservative” (oh, so funny a term) council, they’ll surely axe any commitment to children, ignore the savings they could have by eliminating the admin fess paid to Optum mental health, or even the 12:1 savings by funding chemical dependency and mental health services for frequent offenders that are picked up by the sheriff’s office.

    They could look at community density rather than letting them sprawl out all over the countryside, saving the tax payer tens of thousands of dollars per home built, rather than stretching our fire, sheriff and infrastructure thin.

    They’re elected to represent, not posture.

  11. headedsouth says:

    I agree with the comment that Councilmembers make over $100,000 and get an assistant as well for over $60,000 a year and dont really do a job. If you go up to the Council offices later in the week, you will be lucky to find a councilmember there. Then you if you go to the facebook pages of Councilmembers like Muri and Farrell they are facebooking all day long. Muri is facebooking about his campaign during the day. Tim Farrell facebooked about being down in Olympia “lobbying” while the County pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to Pierce County staff whose sole job it is to lobby in Olympia and the County pays an external lobbyist in Olympia thousands of dollars of year as well. I think the TNT needs to do some investigative reporting on what our well paid Councilmembers are really doing for their pay. I remember Calvin Goings waving campaign signs for his election at 3 PM during the week – what a racket.

  12. headedsouth says:

    This is a recent wall comment by Farrell on his facebook page – Timothy Farrell Question: Knowing that it costs roughly an additional $150K a year to keep the polls open as opposed to going to entirely voting by mail – would you support an advisory ballot to end voting at the polls in Pierce County? Discuss =)

    This is leadership?

  13. headedsouth says:

    As of the last census in 200 The median income for a household in the city was $37,879, and the median income for a family was $45,567 in Tacoma.

    I am curious when someone like Farrell has time to facebook during the day especially to ask his “friends” on facebook their thoughts on cutting the County budget while also having enough on his plate to justify an assistant who has time to be a Council member on the City of Tacoma Council (which puts he pay for both over $90,000 a year) while familes in Tacoma can barely pay their taxes much less their mortage, car payment, health care costs, etc.
    TNT – get reporting on this!!!

  14. Martsmarn says:

    This is about the County General Fund budget! Don’t know if Nonstopjoe and Chip know this, but Chambers Bay is not part of the General Fund budget and never has been. SO, no cuts in the Chambers Budget can help or hurt the General Fund. You always complain about it, but you are either ignorant of the facts, or just don’t care and want to confuse people. Quit complaining aobut something you clearly don’t understand.

  15. jiminycricket says:

    According to Roger Bush in this article, “the council has been transparent…” Yeah, sure, remember when President Richard Nixon said: “Well, I’m not a crook.” Talk about a defining moment in time, and the only thing that the executive asked for was “one week.” Than you Roger and Co!

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