After more than two months of planning and deliberation — including a nearly five-hour final budget meeting a few days before Thanksgiving — the Pierce County Council approved a nearly $3 billion 2022-2023 budget.
The council voted 6-1 to pass the $2.97 billion biennial budget that aims to put Pierce County on the right footing in coming back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is an extremely unusual year, and so with large sources of one-time revenue that are coming in — both from our own sources and from the federal government — also new sources of revenue like the behavior health tax,” said council Chair Derek Young just before the final budget vote at the Nov. 23 meeting. “You add all that togetherl, and you get a heck of a lot of opportunity but a lot of work and a lot of need, so I appreciate the proposal that we got.”
Councilmember Amy Cruver was the lone “no” vote, citing concerns about affordable land-leasing programs.
“It’s not an easy decision for me,” Cruver said right before the vote was called.
The American Rescue Plan Act that was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021 allocated $175.8 million in pandemic response and recovery funds to Pierce County, which received half of the funds in May 2021. The second half will be received in May 2022.
The final approved budget includes $27 million for the Behavioral Health and Therapeutic Courts fund that will be raised by the 0.1 percent sales tax that went into effect earlier this year.
Previously-stated budget priorities — pandemic response and recovery efforts, affordable housing, outreach to the homeless, social justice and equity — were reflected in the final budget approved by the council.
More than $200 million in the budget goes toward housing programs and other related proposals, which is the most the county has ever spent on affordable housing options and homeless support services, more than doubling the current number of shelter beds in the county, according to a Pierce County press release.
Other budget highlights include $15 million to expand broadband infrastructure, $10 million for sewer infrastructure expansion and $2.5 million to start a future endowment fund for Pierce County Children as part of a funding increase for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
The biennial budget takes effect Jan. 1, 2022, pending a signature by Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier.
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