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County budget proposal contains 2.5 percent raises but cuts expenses by 6 percent

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on Sep. 24, 2010 at 4:00 pm with 17 Comments »
September 24, 2010 4:49 pm

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy has delivered a proposed $760 million budget package for 2011 to the County Council.

Pat McCarthy

It’s about 6 percent below the 2010 budget level but doesn’t feature the deep cuts made in 2009 and 2010, McCarthy said this morning.

You can read a copy of McCarthy’s message on the budget and see the entire proposal here.

She and her staff believe consolidation of some services and a reduction in capital projects can help make up for dwindling revenues in a tough economy.

Even so, the budget does call for the reduction of  43 jobs, 32 of them in general government. Some 16 of those general government workers could lose their jobs; the other positions are vacant and won’t be filled, McCarthy said. She said she didn’t know where the layoffs might be.

McCarthy’s spending plan includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for county workers, even though she’s said she’d like to cancel it at a time of reverse inflation. The Consumer Price Index fell 0.5 percent  from June 2009 to June 2010.

She’s asked the county’s unions to forgo the raises written into their contracts, but she said this morning time is running short to reach agreement on such concessions. She thinks it’s more likely the county can hold the line on wages in 2012.

But county employees have shouldered some of the burden of the recession, McCarthy said. For the first time in the county’s history, employees began paying a portion of their health-care premiums this year, she pointed out.

The proposed budget puts an emphasis on public safety, courts, prevention programs and economic development, McCarthy said.

“We’re managing through the economic recession, and we’re doing it in a smart way, a methodical way,” she added. “This is a manageable budget, but it’s not without pain.”

Now that the County Council has the 441-page budget document, it will begin its workshops and deliberations. Though the county executive proposes a budget, the council has the final say in the spending plan.

It’s expected to pass a 2011 budget in November.

Here’s the official news release from Pierce County Communications Director Hunter George.

News Release
www.piercecountywa.org
www.twitter.com/pierceco

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 24, 2010

Executive’s budget proposal cuts spending 6.1%

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy submitted a 2011 budget proposal to the County Council this week that would reduce overall spending by 6.1 percent.

Despite the spending cuts, the Executive’s budget would maintain the County’s emphasis on public safety. In fact, the portion of the General Fund that’s dedicated to public safety would increase from 76.6 percent in 2010 to 78.5 percent in 2011.

“I will continue to prioritize budget cuts to minimize the impact on public safety and judicial services,” Executive McCarthy said. “I remain committed to promoting economic development as our staff works to retain and recruit businesses to Pierce County. And I propose strategic investments in parks, transportation and sewer and stormwater infrastructure that help support livable communities.

“The bottom line,” she added, “is this budget effectively manages our way through these difficult economic times.”

The Executive sent her budget proposal to the Council on Thursday, Sept. 23. She is scheduled to deliver her budget message to the Council during its 3 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 28, which can be viewed live on Pierce County TV or its website.

The seven-member Council expects to adopt a final budget in November.

Under the Executive’s proposal:

Total spending would drop $49.4 million, or 6.1 percent below 2010 levels, to $759.7 million. Most of the decrease can be attributed to a decline in federal and state grants and the reduction of capital project expenditures.

The County would cut 43 staff positions, bringing the total number of cuts through layoffs and attrition since 2008 to 459.

The General Fund – the account funded primarily by sales and property taxes and containing the most flexibility – would increase by just 0.4 percent.

The County would realize some efficiencies by closing two facilities in Tacoma – the old Puget Sound Hospital on Pacific Avenue and the District Court facility on Hosmer Street. Both facilities are inefficient and expensive to maintain and might be sold in the future due to the value of the land.

“The deep recession and sluggish recovery continue to present difficult challenges,” Executive McCarthy said.

“But those economic conditions also have inspired County managers and employees to push even harder for efficiencies. In some cases, we are going for a reset – a chance to stop doing something the old way just because we’ve always done it that way, or to seize an opportunity to combine resources and improve service delivery.”

One major project that’s under way is the merger of the departments of Community Services and Human Services. The Executive anticipates the combined departments will deliver better services to more people once the departments are fully integrated. In addition, a study of the feasibility of merging operations in Public Works and Utilities with Planning and Land Services is expected to be completed in spring 2011.

Executive McCarthy noted that every County department has cut expenses. Among other things, staff furloughs in various departments have saved the County a total of $1.3 million since 2009.

In the coming weeks, Executive McCarthy, her staff, department directors and the County’s other independently elected officials will appear at the Council’s budget hearings to review the spending proposals and revenue forecasts.

The Council’s hearings will be aired 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 www.piercecountytv.org.

Leave a comment Comments → 17
  1. Novelist3 says:

    What makes any of these people feel they deserve a raise? They should be grateful they still have an office to go to!

  2. Wish I was getting a COLA. Grr.

  3. Rowdy_Rob says:

    Why not save an additional 2.5 percent and veto the raises…oh wait, common sense doesn’t apply when it comes to Pierce County and management…

  4. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Would like to know how these maggots feel they have earned a pay raise when noone in the private sector is getting one – especially since the raise is 100% from tax payer monies!!!

  5. nonstopjoe says:

    It’d be nice if the Chambers Bay golf course posted a profit for the first half of 2010 – wonder why the NT hasn’t addressed this matter almost three months after June 30th.

  6. notsurprised says:

    What a Bunch of BS.. Whats wrong with just cutting the budget from 6.0 to 8.5 ,, Its a wonder our Country doesnt have a COMPLETE REVOLT going on right now.. What dont these Pukes in Public Sector Jobs get anyhow.. The People are sick and tired of the BS, if you dont like your current pay,go out in the private sector and get a Job..And Good Luck finding one period..

  7. tree_guy says:

    Governor Chris Christie (NJ)…”HELP”

  8. ugottabekiddinme says:

    i’d bet if you offered to cut every pierce county workers pay by 2.5 percent they would take it rather than go job hunting

  9. justbusdriver says:

    We knew they were being irresponsible back in 2008 when they went ahead and negotiated the current contracts with the various unions that cemented in these constant raises as it was obvious we were in a tough economic time and it was time to hold the line. But no, they pandered to their base, the public unions. The executive is a Dem and there is absolutely no way that you would be in any way serious in cutting into your political base like that. The council as i understand it, have their hands tied as they aren’t part of the negotiating team, can only give it an up or down vote, more or less. It will take some angry and loud voices to push against this foolishness.

    Bottom line… continuing constant steady pay raises of such magnitude in the public sector when inflation is wavering year to year between -1 and +1 is unsustainable, a bubble that needs to be dealt with and soon.

  10. Sagacious says:

    I have a couple of questions you might ask Pat at her town hall meetings:

    If inflation is negative, should the workers be giving back money this year, instead of receiving a “cost of living” increase of 2.5%? Or, did some dunderhead set a hard number of 2.5% in the contract?

    Is there some reason not to renegotiate the contract?

  11. PumainTacoma says:

    For go all raises! Get real this is the state of the economy. Stop this crap once and for all. Pierce County works seven (7) hour days and reaps banker hours with people coming in at 9am leaving at 3pm. What kind of private business allows this during good or bad times. Lay off workers tomorrow.

  12. comment_tayter says:

    I own a small business, I am not a vehemently anti-tax guy, and I tend towards moderation.

    I have not raised the prices of my services for over two years, hence no raises for me.

    No raises for them, either.

  13. Maggots? Pukes? C’mon people, I know you are angry and all, but seriously, where do you go from there? Save the language for the child molesting priests and cop killers, not civil servants just trying to do their jobs.

    A modicum of civility, please. Get a grip.

  14. JeffTacoma says:

    Lets see, 78% is public safety. Lets cut all that out, huh. Oh, and the county has less employees than it had in 2001, so it’s getting bloated. But, we have 80,000 more people than in 2001, so we don’t need as much government. Read the numbers people, this is not a bloated government. You need to look north to King County. TNT, lets see a comparison here, how many employees per citizen does each have? How much spent per citizen? Hard to judge if we can’t see those kind of facts.
    On the COLA, big deal, that gets caught up after two years anyway, they always lag.

  15. recurve6 says:

    Why is it that everybody thinks that it’s fair game to go after government workers when there is a money crisis?

    It is not the increase in pay that is hurting the budget but rather the services that you the voters voted for. Do you really think that by not giving COLAS or even cutting pay will somehow reduce your tax burden? Not by any stretch of your imagination. Do you know that government workers pay taxes aswellas you do and therefore contribute to their own wages, huummmm!!!!

    Grow up and stop being jealous and go and find a job if your not happy with your pay.

  16. TacomaBorn says:

    NOT one of these government employees deserve a raise! Not ONE! In this depression and with over 38,000 people unemployed in Pierce County… we need JOBS for the unemployed not raises for the chosen few.

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