King County: Possible 10% - 15% reductions for public safety system in 2011

Budget Committee briefed on potential cuts to criminal justice programs due to $60 million budget shortfall

The elected leaders of King County’s criminal justice system today warned the members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee that the projected $60 million general fund deficit for 2011 will have a direct effect on the programs and services they use to protect the public.

Sheriff Sue Rahr, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, along with District and Superior Court Presiding Judges Barbara Linde and Bruce Hilyer briefed Committee members on the impact the deficit will have on public safety. Cutting their budgets could lead to the elimination of District Court probation services, reduced capacity for criminal investigations, and the elimination of sheriff's deputies.

“Despite the unprecedented cooperation between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches, our budget challenges have reached a level beyond what we can control through efficiencies and improved coordination alone,” said Julia Patterson, chair of the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.  “We heard loud and clear today that the cumulative effect of previous cuts, coupled with projections of ongoing general fund deficits will severely impact criminal justice agencies, put simply, will make our residents less safe.”

In preparation for the 2011 Budget, King County Budget Director Dwight Dively has asked all departments financed out of the general fund to create a list of services and programs that would face reduction consistent with a $60 million shortfall.

“As the Executive has said, with the imbalance between revenues and expenditures we need to work together to bring down the cost drivers in our budget,” said Dively. “We appreciate the cooperation of all our elected officials in developing a shared vision of the future.”

Public Safety agencies are not scheduled to make their formal budget submittals to the Executive until June, but the given projections mean roughly ten to fifteen percent reductions will be needed in order to close the $60 million budget gap.

In today’s meeting, the following potential cuts were outlined: Sheriff:

    • -10 supervisors and commanders -60 Sheriff’s deputies and detectives, and; -12 civilian personnel.
      -Property crime investigations -Drug investigations -School resource officers -Neighborhood storefront deputies -Regional Violent Crime and Drug Task Force participation -Regional Fugitive Task Force participation, and; -Regional Intelligence/Homeland Security Task Force participation.
        • -Bomb/hazardous materials investigations -Marine patrol responses -Fire investigations -Homicide investigations -Sexual assault and elder abuse investigations -Domestic violence investigations, and; -Warrant service and arrests.
  • ·       82 personnel, including:

    ·       Services eliminated for citizens of unincorporated King County, including:

    ·       Services to be further reduced for citizens of unincorporated King County, including:

Sheriff Rahr also explained that citizens would see increased response time for 911 calls and increased wait time for serving subpoenas and other civil processes.

Superior Court and Department of Judicial Administration:

    ·       Eliminate Family Court Services, including all assistance to self represented Family Law litigants ·       Eliminate Domestic Violence assessments ·       Eliminate Step Up Program, which addresses violence perpetrated by youth against parents ·       Eliminate Clerk’s Office Customer Service staff, including all external telephone service ·       Eliminate attorney and supervisor support on Dependency CASA program ·       Significantly reduce Juvenile Offender supervision, jeopardizing public safety ·       Reduce Clerk’s Office hours of operation

“If these cuts to the court’s budget are realized, the criminal justice system would be threatened to the point it could collapse and public safety seriously undermined,” said King County Superior Court  Presiding Judge  Bruce Hilyer.

Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said his concern is that potential public safety reductions will have a ripple effect. “Cuts of this magnitude not only will devastate the operations of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, but will be felt by crime victims throughout King County.”

The panelists also outlined the cuts previously taken in the past two years, which had budget shortfalls totaling $150M.

The 2010 general fund adopted by the Council is $629 million, of which 76 percent is directed toward public safety agencies including the Sheriff, Prosecuting Attorney, District Court, Superior Court, Adult and Juvenile Detention, Jail Health Services, and the Public Defender.  Other programs in the general fund include: Elections, Assessments, Public Health, Council and Executive functions, and Records and Licensing Services (which includes Animal Care and Control).