County budget crunch: Proposal to save some public-safety $

November 21, 2008 11:16 am
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 |   Safety | West Seattle news | West Seattle politics

We’ve been tracking the county budget crunch here and on White Center Now; many components of the county budget affect far more than those in unincorporated areas — it also affects public-safety and other services provided for everyone in King County. Council leaders just announced they’ve found a way to save some of the services that were on the chopping block – here’s the entirety of their (long) announcement (P.S., you can send comments online by going here):

Budget panel proposes funding for highest priorities of
public safety, health and quality of life

Many critical programs restored for full year,

but Legislature still needs to act on revenues for counties

Faced with an unprecedented $93.4 million shortfall in the general fund, budget leaders for the Metropolitan King County Council today presented a budget proposal that successfully fulfills the Council’s avowed goal of protecting the public’s highest priorities of public safety, health and quality of life.

The $4.9 billion proposal, known as the “budget striker,” calls for a general fund budget of $627.8 million. To fund the restoration of the public’s priorities, the budget panel made more than $10 million in reductions to funds for future maintenance needs, some technology projects, and lower-priority programs.

If recommended Friday afternoon by the Budget Review and Adoption Committee, the budget will be considered for final adoption by the full County Council on Monday, Nov. 24.

“Citizens traveled miles, waited hours in line, and turned out in record numbers to tell us that King County services are vital and must be protected,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, chair of the 2009 Budget Review and Adoption Committee. “We heard their stories and reprioritized our budget to protect safety, public health, and quality of life in our communities, while at the same time living within our means and putting money aside for rainy days ahead. This budget is the product of unprecedented cooperation with our criminal justice agency partners, city officials, and the public.”

“I am pleased that as we scrubbed the budget, we were able to restore direct services for public safety and health,” said Councilmember Jane Hague, a member of the budget leadership team. “Citizens can have more confidence that they’ll have a timely response for their urgent needs.”

“Given our budget crisis, we scrubbed the Executive’s proposed budget to find funding for critical services including public health centers, tuberculosis control, family court services, drug courts, and mental health courts,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, a member of the budget leadership team. “This budget prioritizes funding for programs that will save the county money in the long-run, and protects services residents will depend on during these tough economic times.”

“This budget process set strong priorities and we stuck to them while making the needed budget cuts,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who serves as vice chair of the Operating Budget Panel. “We were able to maintain alternative sentencing programs that reinforce our belief in how criminal justice and human services work together to save money, reduce recidivism and change lives. We also upheld our promises to rural residents by maintaining agriculture and forestry units that support our valuable natural resources.”

PUBLIC SAFETY: This budget retains successful programs for treatment and alternatives to incarceration that the Executive proposed budget placed into the six-month strategy, including many parts of the council’s successful Adult Justice Operational Master Plan and Juvenile Justice Operational Master Plan that since 2001 have helped avoided more than $250 million in criminal justice costs with no increase in crime. In particular, this budget:

· Restores 19 positions to the Sheriff’s office that will:

· Keep open all Sheriff’s storefront offices in the unincorporated areas of the county.
· Save the Sheriff’s participation in regional drug, firearm, and gang task forces.
· Restore funding for major accident detectives who also support major crime scene investigations such as homicides, ChildFind detectives, K-9 services and other important specialized positions.

· Maintain security at the County’s court facilities.

· Restores full-year funding for the Superior Court’s successful Drug Diversion Court and Unified Family Court Services.

· Restores full-year funding for District Court’s award-winning Mental Health Court and preserves support for Relicensing Court.

· Restores full-year funding for street booking at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, so that local law enforcement in south King County can book inmates directly into the RJC without having to drive to downtown Seattle.

· Restores full-year funding for community corrections programs that are vital to holding down criminal justice costs while holding low-risk offenders accountable, including housing vouchers, chemical dependency treatment, and programs through the Central Area Motivation Program, the LELO program, the Learning Center, and Helping Hands.

· Provides needed resources for other programs, such as the unique domestic violence treatment program for juvenile offenders known as “Step-Up.”

PUBLIC HEALTH: In order to avert some of the most significant health threats to our residents, this budget restores full-year funding for some public health programs placed in the Executive’s six-month strategy, including:

· Full–year funding for all public health centers,
· Services provided by community-based organizations that reduce youth violence,
· Programs for control of sexually transmitted disease,
· Services for 200 low-income seniors to help them manage chronic disease and avoid placement in expensive long-term care facilities, and

· Services that ensure that children complete their immunization schedule.

Where the Executive proposed funding some of the county’s family planning clinics for six months and maintained the rest for the full year, this budget funds all family planning services for the first nine months of 2009 while the County seeks a revenue solution from the Legislature. The Council has also requested that the Executive develop alternative options for the delivery of family planning services in 2009 and beyond.

This budget funds some public health services for six months of 2009, while the County works with the Legislature to develop revenues totaling $4.5 million to fund these programs for the remainder of 2009. If no support is found, these services will be reduced or entirely eliminated on July 1, 2009:

· The child care health program, providing 2,745 visits to child care facilities and 112 training sessions for child care providers that help to ensure the health and safety of children,

· Zoonotic disease control, which works with animal-related businesses in the county to reduce the transmission of disease from animals to humans and helps control infections from West Nile virus and rabies,

· Regulation of small drinking water systems,
· Tuberculosis control services that reduce the development of drug-resistant TB,
· Death investigations by the medical examiner,
· Public health laboratory testing services,
· Investigation of communicable diseases,
· Support provided by public health nurses to 75 teen mothers and their children, which is proven to reduce future criminal justice costs,

· Support for 1,200 families of children with special health and developmental needs, and
· Provision of dental sealants to 900 second-grade children.


· This budget affirms that the King County Fair, founded in 1863 to celebrate and promote the county’s agricultural heritage, is an essential part of the rural quality of life and the lives of young people for whom the annual event provides a cherished showcase. This budget restores funding for fair operations for 2009. The Council on Monday will act on a motion that calls for a task force to explore ways to boost revenues and attendance in order to make the fair more self-sustaining in the future and less dependent upon support from the general fund.

· This budget assures that 4-H programs will continue in 2009.

· To ensure the long-term viability of natural resource-related activities such as farming and forestry, as well as continue proven salmon-recovery programs in county watersheds and Puget Sound, this budget restores staffing and funding in the Water and Land Resources Division for the agriculture, forestry, basin and rural stewardship and current use programs.

· This budget keeps bus service on the streets to meet record demand from riders, and keeps the promise for service increases made to voters who supported the “Transit Now” measure in 2006 – despite economic turmoil that has led to a dramatic plunge in the sales tax revenues that support Metro Transit. Accompanied by a mid-biennium supplemental budget for public transit, this budget closes also closes a shortfall of about $90 million in the transit budget by:

§ Reducing Metro’s annual operating expenses by $28 million,
§ Scaling back or deferring entirely $12.8 million in Metro capital projects,
§ Reducing Metro’s annual capital fund by $40 million, as proposed by the executive, and
§ Raising transit fares by 25 cents in many categories on February 1, 2009, with a similar 25 cent increase to take effect on January 1, 2010, generating $9.5 million in 2009 and a cumulative $22 million a year from 2010 onwards and restoring the target of bus fares defraying about 25 percent of transit operating expenses.

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