The Pierce County Council unanimously approved its 2017 budget Nov. 29, including money for more local law enforcement and crime prevention efforts and for Key Peninsula parks. The council later rejected a proposed sales tax increase within the budget to fund new mental health care.
According to the county charter, it is the council’s responsibility to adopt a budget each year by Dec. 1. This year’s budget totals just over $907 million, a 3.1 percent increase from 2016. In a statement describing its work, the council wrote that the 2017 budget “enables the county to provide priority services while also being fiscally sustainable.”
The budget includes funding for five additional sheriff’s deputies, including one for the now vacant Peninsula Detachment to serve as a community-policing officer who will address “a lot of nuisance and problem-solving cases,” according to Councilmember Derek Young (D-7th).
There is also funding for a KP crime watch program called Safe Streets that will include a so-called “crime prevention mobilizer” position within the community.
Other criminal justice highlights include new positions and electronic resources for the county court system and allocations for cleanup of illegally dumped waste.
Local parks received a boost with an additional $100,000 going to the Peninsula Metropolitan Park and Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park districts for capital projects.
The budget also proposed a new sales tax increase of 0.1 percent to fund behavioral health care in Pierce County, similar to taxes adopted by surrounding counties to fund mental health and addiction treatment. The council unexpectedly rejected the tax by one vote on Dec. 13.
Young and the council’s other Democrats, Connie Ladenburg (D-4th) and Rick Talbert (D-5th), co-sponsored the tax proposal, which would have raised $10 million in 2017. Council Chairman Douglas Richardson (R-6th) voted for the measure, but it required a supermajority of five votes of the seven-member council to pass and no other Republican supported it.
Young took to Facebook to describe his disappointment. “Despite months of work and overwhelming community support, not to mention the obvious need for suffering families, we failed to reach the supermajority required by county charter,” he wrote. “The need won’t go away. Pierce County will continue to have one of the worst behavioral health systems in the country until the council takes action.”