Politics & Government

More jail workers, but less jail overtime, in Pierce County’s finalized 2015 budget

The Pierce County Council on Wednesday finalized the 2015 budget, adding corrections deputies but reducing the overtime budget at the jail.

Council members kept intact county Executive Pat McCarthy’s proposed budget and added a few items of their own.

They are scheduled to adopt the budget Monday.

The council approved the eight additional corrections deputies that McCarthy had included in her budget to help reduce overtime costs at the county jail. And it didn’t alter McCarthy’s companion cut to jail overtime spending of $742,000.

The general fund budget for core government services will increase by nearly 3 percent in 2015, going from $273.6 million to $281.6 million. The total county budget, including capital spending, will be about $927 million.

The number of full-time equivalent county positions will remain flat next year at 2,976. No one will be laid off.

Public safety and criminal justice make up 80 percent of the core budget.

The council approved a flurry of budget amendments Wednesday.

One was adding $100,000 to study the need for sidewalks in school districts in unincorporated Pierce County. That action increased the money available for safe walking routes to $200,000.

At the request of Councilman Jim McCune, R-Graham, council members added $30,000 to the Sheriff’s Department’s budget “to enforce laws pertaining to prostitution, human trafficking (and) sexual exploitation of minors.”

Sheriff Paul Pastor said his department would use the money to conduct as many as five stings aimed at getting underage prostitutes out of the business.

“I would like to have an impact on juvenile prostitution,” Pastor said.

McCune said the amount was small but necessary.

“We need to rescue some of these women out of the industry,” he said.

When it comes to staffing, however, the Sheriff’s Department’s gains were far short of what Pastor had requested.

He asked for 32 more staff for next year, including 18 patrol deputies and 14 correctional officers.

Instead, spending for patrol deputies will remain flat. And while the department will gain eight corrections deputies, that’s six short of what was recommended in a jail operations study released in September.

Other budget additions from the council included:

• Up to $38,000 for an extra morning ferry run in the second half of 2015 between Steilacoom and Anderson Island.

• $100,000 to create a maintenance fund for blighted properties. One-half of the money would be transferred from elsewhere in the budget.

• Directing the Parks and Recreation Department to seek at least $100,000 in grant funding for traffic calming and pedestrian safety improvements near Gonyea Park in the Parkland area.

The council also approved the addition of four positions to address mental health issues in criminal justice and human services, which were part of McCarthy’s budget.

Several fees for the Parks and Recreation Department — including most golf course green fees — will increase slightly next year. Some fees for Planning and Land Services also will go up.

The annual surface water management fee for a single family residence will increase by 2 percent from $106.63 to $108.98.

Sewer rates, as well as ferry rates, will increase in 2015. The council approved those hikes last year as part of two-year rate increases.

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