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Here’s how Pierce County plans to spend $324.9 million of your money in 2018

It’s been a two-month slog through reams of spreadsheets, but Pierce County Council members are poised to adopt a $324.9 million budget for 2018, with what appears to be minimal drama.
It’s been a two-month slog through reams of spreadsheets, but Pierce County Council members are poised to adopt a $324.9 million budget for 2018, with what appears to be minimal drama. Thinkstockphotos.com

It’s been a two-month slog through reams of spreadsheets, but Pierce County Council members are poised to adopt a $324.9 million budget for 2018, with what appears to be minimal drama.

The proposal will take center stage at 3 p.m. Tuesday, when the public can speak and the council is expected to take a final and likely unanimous vote.

Apart from minor tweaks, the budget council members have fashioned largely resembles the initial version County Executive Bruce Dammeier offered in September, though one genuinely new line item stands out: a therapeutic court for veterans.

The budget allocates $170,000 for the court. The money would pay for a pair of full-time employees.

Much like the county’s existing drug and mental health courts, the veterans court would aim at diverting veterans charged with low-level crimes from the criminal justice system and toward services and treatment.

The comparatively smooth budget process reflects a victory for Dammeier, shepherding the first full budget of his young administration, as well as council Chairman Doug Richardson, who wrangled the necessary support with limited fuss.

Also, a solid economy generating higher-than-expected tax revenue helped.

“More money makes better friends,” said Councilman Derek Young, who credited Dammeier with producing a budget that reflected the council’s stated priorities.

“Very fair assessment,” Richardson said. “A rising tide lifts all boats. You can quote me — I came up with that right after I invented the internet.”

Most changes sought by members were passed Nov. 7 with a grab-bag amendment that contained several fiscal tweaks, though a few last-minute changes could be offered during committee meetings Monday. Those last-minute items won’t change the big picture, which looks like this:

LAW AND ORDER

It’s the biggest chunk of the budget by far, as always.

▪  Sheriff: $72.7 million, including two additional lieutenants and a sergeant.

▪  Corrections/jail: $54.6 million, including two new corrections deputies, and conversion of two corrections deputies to sergeants.

▪  Prosecuting Attorney: $32.5 million, including funding for an additional deputy prosecutor in the high-priority offender program.

▪  Public defense: $19.7 million.

▪  Superior Court: $18.1 million.

▪  Superior Court Clerk: $6.7 million.

▪  District Court: $14.7 million.

Mash that spending together, and the total amounts to $219 million, about 67 percent of the budget.

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH

From the beginning of his administration, Dammeier placed an emphasis on behavioral health services, in the wake of the council’s narrow rejection of a mental-health tax last year.

The 2018 budget proposal continues that emphasis, dedicating $4.37 million to the purpose. Most of Dammeier’s pet proposals have survived, including the following:

▪  $500,000 for a proposed 16-bed mental-health diversion center in the Spanaway-Parkland area, provided Dammeier delivers a plan for property acquisition, construction and future funding.

▪  $750,000 to support a “Mobile Outreach Crisis Team,” a service coordinated by Optum Health, the private entity that oversees mental-health service provision for the county.

▪  $750,000 for a similar “Mobile Community Intervention Response Team,” known informally as Dammeier’s vans, a rapid-response mental health team on wheels, intended to respond to people in crisis.

▪  $319,100 for a pair of full-time behavioral health program managers.

OTHER PROGRAMS AND DEPARTMENTS

▪  Assessor-Treasurer: $11.3 million.

▪  Auditor: $10.8 million.

▪  Medical examiner: $3.5 million.

▪  Juvenile services (including detention): $21.3 million.

WHERE THE MONEY COMES FROM

The county gets most of its revenue from property and sales taxes. Here’s a partial breakdown:

▪  Property tax: $139.1 million.

▪  Sales tax: $81 million.

▪  Charges for service: $53.3 million.

▪  Fines and forfeitures: $4.3 million.

For budget wonks, much more detail on the final proposal appears online at bit.ly/2yTciAs.

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