Sheriff’s Department Releases Rebuttal To King County Executive’s Proposed Budget Cuts

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Sgt. John Urquhart of the King County Sheriff’s Department sent us the following article Friday afternoon (Oct. 2nd), where he attempts to clarify budget cuts that will affect police officers, as proposed on Monday (Sept. 28th) by current King County Executive Kurt Triplett.

Here’s Sgt. Urquhart’s rebuttal to Triplett’s announcement:

The King County budget is incredibly complicated…some might even say convoluted!   Attached is my effort to clarify one aspect:  the cuts contemplated by the Exec’s Office to the Sheriff’s Office as a result of the North Highline annexation to Burien.


Budget 101: The Cuts to Cops on the Streets

There has been some confusion over budget numbers released by the Sheriff’s Office Wednesday (Sept. 30th), and statements made by the Executive’s Budget Office.  This should clear up at least some of the confusion.

Burien residents voted on August 25th 18th to annex a relatively small area into their city.  It’s officially called “North Highline”.  The annexation officially occurs about March 1, 2010.

Here’s a map of the area:

It is 1,700 acres (about 2.6 square miles) and includes 14,100 people.

The Sheriff’s Office already provides police service to the area since it is in unincorporated King County.  For 24/7 365 day coverage, it takes seven officers, as well as a part-time detective for investigations and a part-time sergeant for supervision.  Call it eight police officers.

With the area soon to be part of Burien, the eight officers are no longer needed so their costs for King County go away because the city will take over police duties in North Highline in March.

The average cost for a Sheriff’s Office employee is $100,000 a year, including salary, benefits, and equipment.  Remember, that’s an average……some are higher and some are lower.

Therefore the “avoided cost” to King County due to the North Highline annexation, if annualized, is about $800,000 (eight deputies X $100,000 each).  However the since the annexation doesn’t take place until March 1st, the 2010 avoided cost is $666,666 (10 months of $800,000).   Pretty simple.

It would be entirely appropriate to take that amount out of the Sheriff’s Office budget for 2010, since that is the savings when deputies won’t be providing police service in the area.

However, rather than $666,666, the Executive’s Office is removing nearly $3.5 million from the Sheriff’s Office budget in 2010.  The amount is specifically labeled as a result of the “North Highline Annexation” in several budget documents.  (Those documents are available for review in the Sheriff’s Office, or are certainly available from the Executive’s Budget Office.)

So that forces a reduction in Sheriff’s Office staff of 35 positions specifically because of the North Highline Annexation ($100,000 X 35 = $3.5 million).

However it is likely that eight of those positions will be hired by the city of Burien, (one of our contract cities) for police duties in North Highline beginning March 1st.

That means the number of lost positions (35) can be reduced by eight, leaving a net loss to unincorporated King County of 27 deputies.

Note that 27 deputies is exactly the number listed in Communications Director Carolyn Duncan’s press release on Monday, Sept. 28th (link here).

However the lost positions are not listed anywhere in budget documents.  This masks the cuts to cops on the street.

So the obvious question:  If the cost savings to King County is $666,666 due to the North Highline annexation, why cut the Sheriff’s Office by $3.5 million…more than five times higher than it should be?

Good question.  We’ve asked.  So far, the Sheriff’s Office has not been provided the documentation behind the cuts.

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