By Brad Chatfield, Pierce County council communications manager
Pierce County Councilmembers this evening, Nov. 9, adopted a 2011 county budget that reduces the cost of delivering government services while keeping public safety the top priority in a still-sluggish economy.
“Families throughout our county are cutting expenses and eliminating discretionary spending in their own budgets,” Council Chair Roger Bush (District 3) said. “We used the same methodical, prudent strategy with this budget because the money doesn’t belong to us – it belongs to the taxpayers.”
Based on the County Executive’s proposal released in September, the council’s version of the 2011 budget is composed of the $268 million General Fund, which pays for most county services mainly with sales and property taxes, and 66 other self-supporting funds, for a grand total of $762.3 million. Expenses in this budget are 4.3 percent lower than in 2010.
Although every county department has made cuts, the portion of the General Fund dedicated to the sheriff, corrections, legal services, and courts will increase from 76.6 percent in 2010 to approximately 78 percent in 2011. For instance, the council has restored $411,000 for four positions in the Sheriff’s Department, including two commissioned officers.
“The lingering effects of this recession have left a lasting impact on our budget and our county,” Bush said. “There are no easy budget decisions left, but every resident can rest assured that this council and executive remain united in our dedication to public safety.”
Like the executive, the council did not use General Fund reserves to balance the budget. General Fund reserves are the county’s savings account and stand at an estimated $23.9 million, which is 8.9 percent of the total General Fund. The county’s goal is to keep 10 percent of the General Fund in reserve.
Bush noted that the council has put several accountability safeguards in place, such as requiring regular status reports on how money is being spent and commissioning studies on how best to use it. The budget:
· asks the executive to make recommendations to improve customer service and efficiency in the Planning and Land Services Development Center;
· requests the Information Technology Department to report to the council on a cost containment plan, with the goal of limiting IT cost growth to the rate of inflation in any given year;
· asks the executive to report by March 15 on a plan for the long-term viability of the Chambers Bay Golf Course Fund, including suggestions for operational changes, sale of adjoining properties, optional funding for debt-service payments, and the transfer or lease of the golf course to a private entity; and
· reduces the cost of the Performance Audit Office by restructuring and streamlining the function, allowing the county to hire more independent, outside audits and related consulting services.
Despite the cautious approach the council and executive have taken in this budget, Bush said the budget might need further amending if the economy doesn’t improve.
“If revenues coming into the county remain constant, we should be able to sustain this current budget through 2011,” Bush said. “If they don’t, we may be forced to make further reductions at some point next year.”
If signed by the executive, the 2011 budget goes into effect on Jan. 1. For more budget information, visit www.piercecountywa.gov/council.Print This Post