King County Council Makes Final Budget Cuts; Sorry Vera Project

Merril Cousin (right) got her cash back from the county. Steve Daschle didn't.
Two weeks ago today, Merril Cousin and Steve Daschle stood side-by-side wearing green stickers declaring "Invest in People." They hoped to convince the King County Council to restore funding that interim King County Executive Kurt Triplett had erased from their respective organizations' budgets. After testifying before the council, like a group of high school varsity basketball wannabes, they anxiously waited to see who would make the cut.

The final team was posted today and as expected, some people didn't make it. Daschle stayed on the cut list.

In the final version of the budget, passed unanimously by the King County Council, Cousin, Executive Director of the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, got most of the money for the programs her organization supports back.

Daschle, Executive Director of Southeast Youth and Family Services, used county money to run support groups for people who have committed non-violent crimes and have received alternative sentences, such as drug treatment, rather than jail time. He saw his funding stuck at zero.

The council has been doing a lot of patting themselves on the back for restoring human services funding without noting that most of what Triplett was proposing to cut still got the ax. In a press release last Wednesday, for example, the council declared that $1.4 million Triplett had cut from Cousin's domestic violence programs was back in the budget thanks to dipping into the mental illness and drug dependency tax levy revenues and moving up the date the county plans to get out of the animal control business, freeing up general fund cash.

What the press release doesn't say is how many programs like Daschle's are falling by the wayside as budget problems continue to mount. A spreadsheet provided by the county lists programs by how much money they received last year, what Triplett proposed cutting, and what the council restored. Most of the long lists of zeros in Triplett's version of the budget stayed that way.

The Vera Project received $25,000 from the county last year. That's gone. So is the $133,650 previously given to Food Lifeline, which supplies food banks and shelters. And funding for nine senior centers throughout the county disappeared. Altogether, of the $4.26 million Triplett cut from the general fund for human services, the county council only managed to restore $1.2 million

And while Cousin was glad to see her funding restored. It's only for one year. Next year the county has another projected $60 million deficit on the horizon. And once again, domestic violence programs will be threatened unless the county can get an okay from Olympia to raise taxes or convince voters to pass a new levy.

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