Slashes in the King County budget may force Sheriff Sue Rahr to cut as many as 100 deputies from the county roster.
In addition to covering 2,000 square miles of King County and providing direct service for about 500,000 residents, the Sheriff’s Department provides support services such as the SWAT team, computer investigation specialists, air support using the county’s helicopter, and specialized police service teams, such as those serving the airport and Metro, Rahr said.
The county’s 2009 budget has a predicted budget shortfall of $60 million, which means that Rahr has been asked to cut $10 million from the department budget during the remainder of this year and in 2009, Rahr said.
“About 4 percent of my budget is truly discretionary,” she said, explaining that of that 4 percent, about half has some spending requirements.
So, for the Sheriff’s Department to cut $10 million, Rahr said she’ll be forced to cut 100 deputy positions.
“We’re pretty panicked,” she said.
Like other county departments, the Sheriff’s Office has been through this process before.
“I know that there’s not any fat left,” Rahr said. “I expect that it’s going to be pretty volatile in the coming months.”
Rahr also said she’s working to get the King County Metropolitan Council to add an amendment during its charter review process that would give the sheriff more control during negotiations with labor unions.
“I’m proposing that the sheriff be the bargainer for the King County Sheriff’s Department instead of the County Executive,” Rahr said, noting that it’s difficult to manage her workforce while having to work through King County Executive Ron Sims as the bargaining agent.
The county charter is reviewed once every 10 years, and 10 charter amendments are under consideration by the County Council now.
“This is a great opportunity to participate in democracy,” she said, urging county residents to contact the charter review commission or County Council members.