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County officials tighten their belts; Executive orders salary freezes; other officials agree

Key King County elected and appointed officials will forgo pay raises next year to help close a $60 million gap in the county's budget.

County Executive Dow Constantine made the announcement Tuesday saying, “I cannot in good conscience send the Council a 2011 budget with drastic cuts to public safety without first leading through example in my office and administration and asking others to do the same. These sacrifices must be shared by all.”

Constantine froze his salary and those of his appointed leadership, eliminating the group’s cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) and step increases for next year. He also proposed extending an existing countywide hiring freeze by making many current position vacancies permanent.

In addition to freezing his own salary by donating any 2011 increase back to the county, Constantine:

• Froze the salaries for his Executive Office, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Strategic Planning and Performance Management (OSPPM), and his appointed leadership – about 155 people.

• Proposed permanent elimination of many positions left vacant under the current countywide hiring freeze, reallocating the workload where possible, and carrying those reductions forward in his 2011 budget proposal.

• Continued to limit out-of-state travel funded by the county.

Constantine also asked the county's independently-elected officials including the Prosecutor, Sheriff, County Councilmembers, Assessor, and Elections Director to join him in these cost-containment measures.

Salaries for Superior and District Court judges were frozen in September of 2008 by the Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said he would follow Constantine's lead.

“Cutting labor costs is a crucial component of a comprehensive strategy to meet the budget shortfall,” the prosecutor said.

County Elections Director Sherril Huff and Assessor Lloyd Hara said they, too, would support the initiative.

“Taxpayers have every right to expect us to tighten our belts,” Hara said.

Constantine also said he would urge organized labor to join him in containing costs by forgoing COLA next year, and he is working with the County Council to adopt labor policies that support this effort.

“We must all be part of the solution,” said Constantine. “I will ask our labor partners to join us in containing compensation costs in a way that is fair and equitable across the county’s workforce.”

The County Council is set to vote on new county labor policies at its Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday. A new county revenue forecast issued Tuesday shows 2010 sales tax revenues down even further than projected.

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