County Council approves 2009 budget
County Council approves
Bad economy makes for painful budget cuts BY CHUCK TUCK | JOURNAL REPORTER Due to the universally widespread downturn in the economy, the Snohomish County Council has approved a 2009 general fund budget of $206.6 million.
The council used a combination of expenditure reductions and revenue enhancements to close the $21 million gap that existed between the 2009 projected revenues and the cost to continue 2008 general fund services in 2009.
Approximately 160 employee positions are being eliminated, although the actual number of employees losing jobs will be less because the council instituted a hiring freeze last summer.
Seventy-two percent of the county’s general fund supports law and justice services, including the sheriff, prosecutor, courts and corrections, and these important and large departments had to absorb equivalently large budget cuts.
Smaller non-public safety departments assessor, auditor, treasurer, parks, human service, the executive and the council will also have to cope with significant cuts next year.
Internal services departments such as facilities and technology services were equally impacted.
The county’s combined general and non-general budget for 2009 is $815.4 million, compared to the adopted 2008 budget of $883.5 a reduction of approximately $68 million, or about 7.7 percent overall.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Council Chair Dave Somers. “If the economy doesn’t get better soon, further budget reductions may be necessary. It will be difficult, but I look forward to working closely with employees and the unions to meet future challenges.”
On a brighter note, Somers said that the council’s 2009 budget continues support for; Project Self Sufficiency, and maintains support for Senior Centers and Family Support Centers, increases support of the Health District over the executive’s proposal, initiates within the Parks Department recreational programs for children with special needs, and other important projects and programs in the communities.
“We asked every department to share the pain,” said Council Vice-Chair Mike Cooper, “including the executive and council offices.”
Cooper stressed the council’s open, public process in preparing its budget, noting that since the council received the executive’s budget recommendations on September 4, the council has conducted more than 37 hours of open public meetings and hearings dedicated solely to discussing and receiving input regarding the budget.
“By working closely with the independent county elected officials and county employees,” said Councilmember Dave Gossett, “we received many creative ideas to preserve front-line services and reduce layoffs.”
The job of producing a balanced 2009 budget that includes adequate reserve funds, he added, was made much more difficult after the council recently learned that County Executive Aaron Reardon had spent down the county’s existing reserves by $6.2 million.