King County Sheriff Sue Rahr has developed a proposed 2009 budget that she said offers creative ways to trim spending while minimizing cuts of deputies to about of what she originally feared.
She said the proposal she sent Tuesday to County Executive Ron Sims includes the $7.5 million in cuts “I was directed to make” by Sims.
She announced her proposed budget for her department at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Due to a projected $68 million shortfall in King County’s 2009 budget, the Sheriff Department as well as the county’s Superior Court, District Court and prosecuting attorney’s office were asked to cut 8.6 percent from their budgets for next year.
Rahr offered a number of ideas to save money in her department.
The Sheriff Department could lease fewer cars from the county motor pool as well as pay less into the replacement vehicle fund, which would save $25,000 per car. Other steps includes making adjustments to fees, correcting errors in the budget calculations, and adding revenue through taking over fire investigations.
“Once I exhausted ideas for reducing our expenditures and increasing revenue, I had to look next at eliminating employees,” Rahr said. “I have proposed cutting 13 administrative positions – all valuable civilian support positions. These cuts will impact services to the community, including the services that citizens get when they walk into their local precinct or the (county) courthouse looking for assistance with gun permits or paying various civil fees.”
In addition, Rahr has proposed cutting dedicated funds reserved by the County Council that were intended to implement recommendations by the Blue Ribbon Panel, plus cutting at least 20 deputies that investigate narcotics and organized crime, cold cases and domestic violence, as well as marine patrol officers.
Rahr initially said in June that there may be as many as 100 fewer deputies on patrol next year if she couldn’t find other ways to reduce spending to meet the mandate by Sims to make cuts. Now she is hoping that number will be closer to 50 – including the reduction of 18 deputies following two annexations by cities earlier this year — due to Sheriff Department staff recommending other cuts to Rahr for non-essential services and minimizing costs for things like patrol car replacement and cutting back on investigations of petty crimes.
Because other county government departments weren’t asked to make similar cuts, Rahr said, it seemed only fair to seek corresponding cuts in services provided to the Sheriff Department by other county departments.
Kurt Triplett, Sims’ chief of staff, said that Rahr’s assertion that other county departments haven’t been asked to make similar cuts is not accurate.
“We have assigned the same level of cuts or higher to all the internal services funds … in some cases as much as a one-third reduction target,” Triplett said. “The lowest reduction target was 8.6 percent. We are absolutely cutting internal services and middle management positions.”