Over the next few months, you’ll hear more about King County’s budget process as we work to pass the balanced budget required by law. This year, we have to fill the $68 million gap between the revenue the county brings in and the cost of providing the services county residents depend on.
Every year, I send a balanced budget to the County Council, which can make its own additions and reductions, as long as the budget balances. Since the 2006 budget, I’ve been warning that the county’s revenue streams could not keep pace with cost growth. This year, we’ve hit the wall we saw looming.
As you probably heard on recent news reports, criminal justice, which makes up the bulk of county expenditures (71%), faces significant cuts, as do all county departments.
We turned to reserves to balance the shortfall in past years but those are or will be gone in 2008 and 2009. The deficit will only increase if we continue on our current path. So I’m continuing my work with regional partners, the legislature, and county staff to find a creative, long-term solution.
In the meantime, county agencies are looking at preliminary reduction options for their 2009 budget requests and considering several county-wide strategies to cut expenses and increase revenue.
We’ve run pretty lean operations since the big budget cuts in the period between 2002 and 2005, so this time we’re not cutting the fat; we may have to cut into the heart and soul of the services we provide.
While some will use these trying times to criticize, point fingers and distract with rhetoric, at the end of the day, none of that solves the problems at hand. I will continue reaching out to other governments facing the same challenges and working to come up with real, regionally appropriate solutions for consideration. After all, it’s physically impossible to point fingers and reach out for help at the same time.
We are blessed with an economically strong region and no shortage of smart, committed people who want to see King County thrive. We’ll get through this together and I’ll keep you posted on our progress as we learn more and reach more definite conclusions this summer and fall.