County exec sees less spending, fewer jobs

6:24 pm October 12th, 2012

Pierce County would spend less, eliminate nearly 50 jobs and maintain current levels of funding for police protection in a budget proposed by County Executive Pat McCarthy for 2013.

“We are not relying on grants or bailouts or wishes for better times. This is a stable and sustainable budget,” McCarthy said.

The budget’s portion for general government expenses would drop from $275.6 million this year to $274 million next year.

Also targeted for cuts is the county’s workforce, which McCarthy wants to trim by 49 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, including 33 whose costs are covered in the general fund. At least half of the jobs on the chopping block are vacant through through retirements or resignations and wouldn’t be filled.

If the new reductions are approved, the county will have cut 514 positions – nearly 15 percent of its workforce – since 2008, officials said

McCarthy said most county departments are sharing the proposed cutbacks.

Her budget plan “relies on realistic revenue assumptions, builds on our goal of enhancing customer service, and continues investments in key areas that help our economy and communities grow and prosper,” she said.

In October, the County Council will  conduct a series of public hearings before approving a final budget.

If the council keeps McCarthy’s recommendations, approximately 79 percent of the general fund would be dedicated to public safety – the same percentage that went to the Sheriff Department and related servics this year.

While general-fund spending would be reduced, total spending, including construction,  would increase about $45 million to $884 million. The increase is primarily due to work on the expansion of the Chambers Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Lakewood rea, which is needed to accommodate growth, replace aging infrastructure an protect Puget Sound, McCarthy said.

Contract negotiations between the county all 23 of its employee labor units are continuing. As a result, spending for salaries and benefits hasn’t been finalized.

“I’m proud of our efforts to find ways to provide services more efficiently,” McCarthy said. “We will continue to make the kind of financial decisions” that led to a recent upgrade of the county’s bond rating.

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