Budget season always sneaks up on me. While local governments typically pass their ordinances around Thanksgiving or early December, the process actually starts in the dog days of summer.
County Executive Bruce Dammeier has been meeting with his staff since July to begin developing his proposal. Although he was a budget writer as a senator in the Legislature and proposed a supplemental on his arrival to the county, this is his first crack at the county budget. The executive will present his recommendation at a televised council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 3 p.m.
At that point, the council takes over and begins making its way through the proposal page by page, first in informal budget retreats where we can generate questions about the executive’s proposal and have conversations about our own priorities.
On Oct. 18, we begin formal hearings on the budget that we call committee of the whole. Although made up of the entire council, the committee process gives us an opportunity to hold hearings with each department and potentially offer amendments that can be rolled into a substitute proposal to the council.
Unlike other ordinances, the council then holds two readings of the ordinance. The first is on Tuesday, Nov. 8, with final passage scheduled for Friday, Nov. 21, both at 3 p.m. I encourage people interested in testifying to do so at the first meeting, as it will give us a chance to prepare amendments responsive to what we hear from the public.
This year will be slightly different thanks to the Budget Ad Hoc Committee that Chair Doug Richardson and I proposed late last year. The idea was to meet a couple of times a month to take an even deeper dive into the budget and question all of our practices. I think we have slayed a few sacred cows along the way as well. Because of that process, we’ll be changing the way we distribute certain capital dollars, make intrafund loans and prioritize spending. All told, I think people on the Key Peninsula will get a better deal out of the process.
Some of my priorities for this year will be:
- Continued increase in staffing for the Sheriff’s Department.
- An additional Superior Court judge.
- Creation of a veterans court diversion program
- Creation of a new behavioral health diversion center.
- Increased support for the park districts on the peninsula.
- Increased funding for cleaning up properties that threaten public health and safety.
For more details on the process and to follow along you can go to the budget website at www.co.pierce.wa.us/5391/2018-Budget.
I have scheduled the council to pay a visit to District 7 on Oct. 3 at the Gig Harbor Civic Center at 6 p.m. We’ve alternated between the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas to give each community a chance to have one closer to home. We also scheduled it during the budget process to maximize the impact residents of our district can have on the council as we enter negotiations. It worked great last year and helped me get some things passed.
While the meeting agenda will have some presentations on issues of interest to the peninsulas, this is our best opportunity to hear from you. Please stop in for a chance to testify before the council.
Derek Young (D-Gig Harbor) represents the 7th District, including the Key Peninsula, on the Pierce County Council.