Budget cuts nix police storefront, resource officer
November 16, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
The austere county budget for the upcoming year closes a police storefront near Issaquah and reassigns a popular resource officer from Liberty High School.
The spending plan also eliminates 28 deputy positions from the King County Sheriff’s Office, reduces police service in rural areas and curtails investigations into burglaries and other property crimes. The budget includes, all told, about 300 staff reductions.
King County Council members approved the lean budget Nov. 15, after a monthslong debate about how to fund police and other criminal justice services.
“The county has a fundamental responsibility to make sure the services of local government in those unincorporated areas are adequate — and it’s failing at that task,” Councilman Reagan Dunn said before the council decision.
Dunn, the representative for the unincorporated area near Liberty High School between Issaquah and Renton, served on the budget team, but in the end, voted against the budget.
The fallout from the cuts is due to be felt on the high school campus after the budget takes effect Jan. 1. Deputy Dave Montalvo, the school resource officer, is due to be reassigned to patrol duty under the spending plan.
Principal Mike DeLetis said Montalvo has served as a valuable member of the school community for several years.
“We’d love to keep him on. However, I get that there are budget issues in the county and the state and the school district,” DeLetis said.
The budget also eliminates a police storefront in the Four Creeks rural area near Issaquah, plus all other storefronts in the county.
Sgt. John Urquhart, the sheriff’s office spokesman, said the storefronts serve as a key outreach tool for deputies and representatives from other county departments. The sheriff’s office does not track the number of resident visits to the storefronts.
“A very valid criticism of the police is that we are isolated from the public too much because we drive around in our patrol car all day,” Urquhart said. “Neighborhood storefronts have allowed us to interact much more with the community.”
The budget directs Sheriff Sue Rahr to reduce the number of property crimes investigators from 16 to two.
Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, the other Issaquah-area representative on the council and another budget team member, said cuts to other programs in previous years left little else to cut for 2011.
“Nobody got elected to see how we could take apart government,” she said. “These are tough years. Nobody has had to deal with this since the Great Depression.”
The budget decision came after King County voters rejected a sales tax hike to stave off the deepest cuts to the sheriff’s office and court system.
The electorate defeated Proposition 1 — a proposal to raise the sales tax rate to 2 cents per $10 purchase on the Nov. 2 ballot — by a double-digit margin. Officials hoped to use the $35 million next year generated through the hike to close a $60 million shortfall.
Dunn suggested using funds allocated to Public Health – Seattle & King County to restore deputies and other criminal justice services.
“The policy question there is, do we care more about stopping tuberculosis and STDs, or do we care more about keeping seniors and children safe in their homes?” he said before the council decision.
Dunn introduced a budget amendment to steer dollars from the public health agency to shore up criminal justice services. Republicans on the council OK’d the amendment, but Democrats united to defeat the measure.
(Though voters made the council nonpartisan in 2008, members continue to caucus along partisan lines on many issues.)
“If you live in Tukwila, maybe the public health clinic down the street is important to you,” Dunn said. “If you live in unincorporated King County — which almost 350,000 people do — you’re going to be worried” about public safety.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.