The Council’s budget development work began again on (Wednesday, Oct. 18), at 9:30 a.m. with another Committee of the Whole. Human Resources and Parks & Recreation presented their 2024-2025 budget proposals. Today, the Council is hearing from District Court and the Auditor’s Office. Here is a recap of the Council’s work on the 2024-2025 Biennial Budget for the week of Oct. 9-15.
Planning & Public Works Department
On Thursday, Oct. 12, the Planning & Public Works Department (PPW) presented its budget proposal. The Planning & Public Works Department is responsible for a broad and complex portfolio of services that include the County’s roads and levee systems, sewer systems, airports, ferries, building permits, environmental review, sustainability, community planning, code enforcement, and much more.
Planning & Public Works is one of the County’s largest departments and is funded through a variety of general and special fund revenues. Tetazin’s budget presentation detailed that PPW’s initiatives for this budget cycle include:
- Clean and Safe Communities.
- Permitting Workflow Improvement Project.
- Comprehensive Planning for the Future.
- Expanding Sewer and Water Utility Capabilities.
- Transportation Planning and Traffic Safety.
The PPW team will be leading an update to the County’s Comprehensive Plan next year, which will touch many of these initiative areas. Because of the size and scope of services PPW provides, its leadership team returned Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 1 p.m. for a follow-up briefing.
You can watch PPW’s budget presentation here.
Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
Also on Thursday, Mary Robnett, County Prosecuting Attorney, presented her office’s proposed budget. The County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office consists of three divisions dedicated to public safety and serving the people of Pierce County. They are:
- The Criminal Division, which prosecutes all felonies in the County and all misdemeanors in unincorporated Pierce County. This division also pursues alternatives to conviction and incarceration, such as participation in a therapeutic court, for those motivated to turn their lives around.
- The Civil Division, which represents all county officials and departments in civil litigation. This division also provides support for civil behavioral health treatment through the Assisted Outpatient Treatment Act and the Involuntary Treatment Act.
- The Family Support Division, which protects the best interests of children, establishes parentage and works to enforce child support.
The County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office’s proposed budget is $88.6 million and identifies four priorities:
- Maintain Criminal Division staffing levels.
- Increase nuisance abatement services.
- Standardize County contracts and streamline contract review and processing for departments.
- Add two part-time supported services positions and permanently fund an existing part-time child forensic interviewer. The forensic interviewer is housed in the Criminal Division, Special Assault Unit. The other two part-time positions would also be in the Criminal Division.
Robnett identified extended impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on the justice system and a steady increase in criminal referrals for violent crime as critical issues that require a fully staffed Criminal Division. Currently, the Criminal Division includes 24 full-time employees who were added in the 2022-2023 budget; 12 are funded from the County’s general fund and 12 from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The Council has been interested in the use of therapeutic courts to promote improved outcomes for justice-involved individuals and enhance community safety. This topic came up during Robnett’s budget presentation, and she said she makes use of therapeutic courts when appropriate. The County has a Veterans Court, Mental Health Court, and Drug Court.
You can watch her full presentation here.
Department of Assigned Counsel (Public Defender)
Michael Kawamura, Director of the Department of Assigned Counsel (DAC), presented his department’s budget after the County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The DAC is responsible for providing constitutionally mandated legal services to indigent persons accused of crimes in Pierce County Superior Court, Pierce County District Court, and Municipal Courts in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Fircrest, and Ruston. The DAC also provides legal services to indigent parents involved in Juvenile Court dependency and termination proceedings, as well as people detained for involuntary civil commitment proceedings at Western State Hospital and other evaluation and treatment facilities.
The total budget proposal for the DAC is $47.2 million. Kawamura identified four priority areas:
- Establish a conflict office to provide qualified conflict-free counsel to defendants.
- Address racial, ethnic, and socio-economic disparities that exist within the justice system.
- Assist clients with behavioral and mental health needs, increase holistic representation that includes efforts for meaningful transition opportunities into the community and advocate for alternatives to traditional detention alternatives.
- Advances contemporary data collection relating to effective treatment of juvenile offenders.
What Comes Next?
Budget presentations by County departments and separately Elected Officials in Committees of the Whole continued this week and will continue next week. The Council will also begin budget retreats on Thursday, Oct. 26. These retreats are where the bulk of Councilmember budget deliberations will occur. While budget retreats will not be televised on PCTV, you can attend those meetings in person in Council Chambers (10th floor at 930 Tacoma Ave. S) or remotely via Zoom. We will also post them to our YouTube channel following the meeting.
Please visit the Council’s 2024-2025 Budget Development website for the full budget development schedule.