By Hunter George, Pierce County Communications director
Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy issued the following statement after the County Council’s vote on Tuesday, Nov. 9, to approve the 2011 budget:
Like families and businesses, Pierce County government will continue to live within its means while providing critical services that support healthy, livable communities. My team worked with the County Council to develop a 2011 budget that represents a collaborative, bipartisan approach to deliver the most effective services with limited resources.
This budget confirms that public safety is our top spending priority. That’s why the percentage of the General Fund that is dedicated to law enforcement and judicial services is increasing from 76.6 percent in 2010 to approximately 78 percent in 2011. Working together, the Council and Sheriff Paul Pastor and I were able to make adjustments that resulted in a budget increase for the Sheriff’s Department that protects several important staff positions. It is important to note that we protected every existing deputy position.
This budget reduces overall county spending by 4.3 percent. Much of the decrease is attributed to a decline in federal and state grants and a reduction in capital project expenditures. Here are other details about steps we are taking to manage with the resources available:
· Since 2008, we have eliminated more than 450 positions through attrition or layoffs and cut approximately $120 million in total spending.
· Since 2009, we have saved more than $1.3 million via furloughs (unpaid time off).
· The merger of the Department of Community Services and the Department of Human Services is on track to take effect in early 2011, and the result should be a department that provides more services to more people with the same amount of money.
· We are closing inefficient, expensive-to-operate facilities such as the old Puget Sound Hospital and the District Court facility on Hosmer Street in Tacoma.
· We have asked county employees to absorb 100 percent of the medical cost increases for 2011.
· We are in talks with county labor unions about changes to future compensation packages for employees that will enable us to adjust to economic conditions.
· A study team is preparing to send me recommendations on changing the way we do business at the Department of Planning and Land Services (PALS), which plays a vital role in assisting and managing the county’s growth.
I have appreciated the feedback from the public. Some came to the seven budget briefings I hosted throughout the county in September and October, and others have called my office or e-mailed me. Their message is clear: preserve core services for the 813,000 residents of Pierce County with existing resources. Our elected leaders and managers and staff are working hard to do just that.