King County Council adopts 2011 budget

The King County Council adopted a $5.1 billion 2011 operating budget on a 7-2 vote Monday, closing a $60 million deficit and completing the difficult budget process a week ahead of schedule.

Under the new budget, more than 300 county positions have been eliminated, including sheriff’s deputies, county prosecutors and superior and district court employees. Human service programs that traditionally received some county support were also cut. There is no general fund contribution, for instance, to services for at-risk mothers, early learning or after school programs.

At the same time, $23.5 million in services and positions across all county agencies that had been threatened with cuts were preserved with savings created after thousands of county employees agreed to forego cost of living adjustments (COLAs), some of which were built into labor agreements. All but one county bargaining unit, the King County Sheriff Deputies, agreed to give up their negotiated COLAs.

Among those programs that had been threatened with cuts but were saved were ones that work to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault. The budget also maintains the county’s $15 million rainy day fund and its 6 percent cash reserve, protecting the county’s AAA bond rating.

County Executive Dow Constantine praised the council for their work on the budget in a press release on Monday.

“I congratulate the council for sticking to our principles and adopting a responsible budget that maintains our reserves without resorting to one-time gimmicks,” he said. “By making difficult choices, the council is helping to restore county government to sound financial footing with budgets that are sustainable over time.”

Constantine also acknowledged the more than 90 percent of King County employees who waived their COLAs.

“The vast majority of the services restored in the adopted budget are funded from these COLA savings,” he said.

Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer, who voted against the budget, said their decision was based on the budget’s elimination of 28 sheriff’s deputies.

“I cannot vote for a budget that does not first protect public safety before funding non-mandatory programs.” said Dunn, chair of the council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee.

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