Executive Pat McCarthy has proposed adding four positions to assist people with mental illness and chemical dependency problems in her 2015 Pierce County budget proposal.
Her budget, submitted this week to the County Council, also curbs overtime in the Pierce County Jail by adding new corrections deputy positions, and it makes investments in key business sectors to support job growth.
"Our local economy is growing, and the county government's overall fiscal condition is sound, balanced and sustainable," Executive McCarthy told the County Council on Tuesday, Sept. 23 in her annual budget address. "Pierce County is in great shape thanks to the hard work by our employees to keep finding new ways to improve our efficiency and effectiveness."
Highlights from her budget proposal include:
- Four new positions - spread among District Court, Juvenile Court and the Department of Community Connections - to assist people with mental illness and chemical dependency issues who struggle in court systems that are overburdened and ill-equipped to help them.
- Additional funding for the Pierce County Veterans Bureau to provide vouchers to indigent veterans in need of basic services, such as housing and food.
- No growth in the number of county staff positions (the additions are offset by eliminating vacancies and positions filled by expired grants), and no general tax increases.
- Additional support for her initiatives to support job growth in the aerospace and agriculture sectors, which are poised for growth.
The Pierce County Jail's fiscal health remains the county's biggest challenge. The Executive proposes to follow the recommendations from a recent independent performance audit by adding eight corrections deputy positions to help the Sheriff reduce his Corrections Bureau's reliance on overtime. However, she cautioned that adding positions is only a small part of the recommended solution.
"The performance audit shows that hiring more corrections deputies is not enough," Executive McCarthy said. "The audit recommends that the Sheriff pursue specific management and policy changes. These are not easy changes. But we will resolve these issues by working together to cut costs and restore the Pierce County Jail's status as a regional facility serving the whole community."
Under the Executive's proposal, general fund spending would increase by 2.9 percent, to $281.4 million, thanks to increases in sales tax revenues and higher property values. The General Fund covers most general government services and has the most discretion in its usage.
Total county spending - including specific funds for roads, the airport and ferry system, stormwater and sewer systems, and more - drops by 5.8 percent, to $928 million, mostly due to lower spending on the multi-year expansion of the Chambers Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The Executive's budget proposal is available online here.
The County Council will schedule public hearings this fall to review spending by department and consider any changes to the Executive's proposal. The Council's current schedule assumes a final vote on the 2015 budget Nov. 17.
Hunter George, Pierce County Communications director