Budget Number Crunching
5:09 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

No cuts to services in proposed King County budget

There's relatively good news on King County’s budget for 2012: In a big change from recent years, Executive Dow Constantine is proposing no cuts to services. 

Constantine says though it is “surrounded by seas of red ink,” King County is “an island of relative stability” after several years of budget cuts and streamlining.

“Thanks to these savings, we did not have to cut the equivalent of 12 sheriff’s deputies. We did not have to cut seven deputy prosecutors or 20 public health nurses or any number of staff in the courts and on and on in every agency of the county,” he said in his annual budget address before the King County Council.

Constantine says the biggest savings came from previously announced results of a health care program that has encouraged county employees to do everything from losing weight to choosing lower-cost coverage through Group Health.

Help for the poor

As a result, Constantine says the county was able to include in its 2012 budget a one-time payment of a million dollars for human services. That’s a big change from last year, when all budgets for programs to help the poor and needy were zeroed out.

His budget also contains a payment of $9.1 million dollars into the county’s reserves, as a buffer against uncertainty in future tax revenues.

Despite this, Constantine said “even an island of stability is not immune to the storms that blow in.” He warned that the state’s latest $1. 4 billion shortfall will likely lead to cuts in the county – for support of public health and human services.

Similar news for Seattle

At least one other local government is in fairly stable condition. The City of Seattle proposed its budget at the same time as King County, with cuts of 2 percent to the general fund and layoffs of about 80 people.  But Mayor Mike McGinn says most are administrative positions that won’t be noticed by the public – sparing things such as police staffing, library and swimming pool hours.

Neither budget is final until sometime in November, after debate, counterproposals and a vote from their respective councils.