County-exec proposal cuts into jobs, parks
King County Executive Triplett on Monday proposed a 2010 budget that would mothball 39 parks, eliminate 367 jobs and increase Metro fares 25 cents next year and the year after.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Triplett's budget: a few specificsGeneral-fund
Number of parks mothballed
Number of jobs cut
Amount Metro fares would rise
(in 2010, and another 25 cents
Public hearingsfor county budgetTHE METROPOLITAN King County Council will host four public hearings on the executive's proposed budget for 2010. After the hearings, the council must adopt a budget. Members are scheduled to do so Nov. 23.
All hearings begin at 7 p.m. The hearing dates:
Wednesday, Oct. 7: Bellevue City Council Chambers, 450 110th Ave. N.E., Bellevue.
Tuesday, Oct. 13: Maleng Regional Justice Center, Courtroom 3F, 401 Fourth Ave. N., Kent.
Thursday, Oct. 22: Redmond City Council Chambers, 15670 N.E. 85th St., Redmond.
Thursday, Oct. 29: Metropolitan King County Council Chambers, 516 Third Ave., Room 1200, Seattle.
Source: Metropolitan King County Council
Warning that the county can't tolerate further cuts and still keep residents safe, King County Executive Kurt Triplett on Monday proposed a 2010 budget that would mothball 39 urban parks, eliminate 367 jobs and increase Metro fares 25 cents next year and another 25 cents in 2011.
His plan also would have county workers take another round of furloughs next year, though that has to be negotiated with the unions.
Triplett's $4.8 billion budget makes the most severe cuts to programs in the general fund that are not required by law. The county's criminal-justice system largely would be shielded.
His proposed general fund — three-quarters of which supports the criminal-justice system and public safety — is about $26 million less than in 2009.
The cuts would come on top of several years of cost-cutting. For 2009, the county executive had to close a $93 million general-fund deficit, and between 2002 and 2005 $137 million in deficits had to be bridged.
Without new sources of revenue, Triplett forecast general-fund deficits of $54.2 million in 2011 and $88.2 million in 2012.
"There's nothing left to spare," he said. "Counties have to be funded differently."
The county, which has about 14,000 employees, issued layoff notices to 145 employees Monday and, in an effort to avoid further layoffs, will ask labor unions to accept furloughs next year to save about $6.5 million, Triplett said. Of the 367 eliminated positions, 222 already are vacant.
Triplett's proposed budget drew cautious praise from some on the Metropolitan King County Council and criticism from those who expect to lose funds, among them a coalition of sexual-assault and domestic-violence agencies, which says its county funding would drop by 80 percent.
Even the Sheriff's Office, which avoided deep cuts, was skeptical of the proposal, saying it would result in layoffs of deputies serving unincorporated areas.
Triplett said he had to close a $56.4 million deficit in the general fund and find creative ways to close additional deficits in funds dedicated to transit, wastewater and other public utilities.
• Administrative and overhead cuts would save $7.4 million, including the elimination of more than a dozen positions.
• General-fund support for nonmandated services, including Animal Care and Control and human services, would be eliminated. Human services, which still would receive $385.7 million from other funds, would see a net loss of $3.7 million. Specific cuts are to be determined.
• Nearly 40 parks, including two outdoor pools, Vashon and Cottage Lake, would be closed, with $500,000 set aside to give community groups an incentive to adopt them by Dec. 31.
• Bus fares, already set to go up 25 cents next year, would rise another 25 cents in 2011. The one-zone nonpeak fare would rise to $2 in 2010 and $2.25 in 2011.
• Most employees' share of the county's health-care costs would increase to 18 percent, up from about 12 percent, an increase of about $70 a month.
Councilmembers on the budget committee expressed concern about the proposed cuts to human services, but said they would need to wait to see exactly which programs were targeted.
Councilmember Julia Patterson said programs that give emergency shelter to domestic-violence victims, for example, prevented homicides and homelessness. Similarly, programs that treat people with substance-abuse and mental-health issues kept them from entering emergency rooms and jails, she said.
"We have a moral imperative to provide those services," Patterson said.
Councilmember Larry Phillips said he appreciated Triplett's stern warning about what awaits mandated county functions — the courts, jails, sheriff, elections, assessor and prosecutor — if local and state leaders can't agree on a way to fix a broken county financing system that relies largely on property and sales taxes.
"What we're witnessing is the systematic dismantling of county government," Phillips said. "It's a warning worth heeding, and I was glad he was willing to be candid about it."
Meanwhile, county-executive candidates Dow Constantine and Susan Hutchison both praised Triplett for making tough decisions, and weighed in with their own priorities.
Among her ideas, Hutchison, a former TV news anchor, said she would ask voters to approve a property-tax levy for human services to create more stable funding for programs.
Councilmember Constantine said he opposed such a levy, saying he would tap a $15 million county rainy-day fund to keep county parks open and restore some funds for human services. County expenses have been growing at about 6 percent annually, but revenue has grown only about 2 percent a year.
A state cap that limits property-tax increases, combined with decimated tax revenue from retail sales and real-estate transactions, has pushed counties into a spiral of cost-cutting.
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or email@example.com
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