County exec releases proposed budget

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Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier has presented his proposed 2019 budget to the County Council. Noting that household income is up, housing starts are up and Pierce County achieved the nation’s largest year-over-year percentage increase in jobs over the last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dammeier declared that Pierce County “is on the move!”

The 2019 proposed budget includes and extends many of the successful initiatives launched over the last 18 months. Those successes include the nuisance property and code enforcement project that has reduced the time needed to identify problem properties from three months to less than two days.

Dammeier also mentioned the mobile unit that brings behavioral healthcare directly to those that need it. The mobile team has provided 2,400 hours of direct care over the first 8 months of this year, allowing first responders and law enforcement to respond to where they are needed most.

An initiative called Open Pierce County provides unprecedented access and transparency to residents about County operations, budgets and results. “Today, the County reports more than 80 different measurable goals to the people who employ us – the residents of Pierce County,” said Dammeier. He noted that over the last six weeks since the Open Pierce County dashboards were launched, the pages have been viewed nearly 6,000 times.

The budget proposed for 2019 aligns with the County’s strategies to create an entrepreneurial climate, foster vibrant communities and operate an effective and efficient government.

As in previous years, public safety is a top priority in 2019 – for both County residents and the law enforcement team that serves and protects them. The budget includes funding for technology such as laser guided equipment for the SWAT team. The budget also includes funds for school resource officers in partnership with three local school districts.

Dammeier acknowledged the ongoing housing affordability challenges facing County residents. The budget includes funding to increase the supply of affordable housing, taking advantage of the fee waivers under the current code for those at or below 80 percent of median income.

Noting that part of what makes a community vibrant and healthy are great places to play and get exercise, Dammeier discussed upcoming Parks and Recreation projects, including the construction of Cross Park, development of Chambers Creek Canyon Trail and potential ice bumper cars at Sprinker Recreation Center.

Pierce County intends to complete the sale of several surplus County-owned properties in 2019. Selling off real estate no longer needed by the County provides many benefits: new properties are introduced into the economy; construction jobs – and then permanent jobs – are created; the properties begin to generate taxes; and the County can reinvest the revenue from the sales into the buildings the County occupies to do badly needed deferred maintenance.

The challenge of creating the proposed budget, Dammeier noted, is to continue to fuel economic growth while being thoughtful and deliberate to avoid overcommitting the County to unsustainable obligations in future years.

Noting that the County is already starting to see signs of a slowdown in home prices, Dammeier said the County is prudently planning today for the eventual downturn to come at some point. “We are going to do our job well and take care of our taxpayers and our community.”

Dammeier concluded by stating that while strong progress has been made in key areas, there is still much to do. “The 2019 budget as proposed allows the County to make meaningful, sustainable progress for the region’s residents,” he said.

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