Public safety likely hardest hit in Spokane County budget cuts - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Public safety likely hardest hit in Spokane County budget cuts

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich
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SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - The public safety sector may be the hardest hit as Spokane County tries to deal with an estimated $10.5 million budget deficit for 2010.

The budget deficit is less than the $12.5 million expected, but saving that $2 million did not come easy.

Thirty-four county employees took advantage of an early retirement program in an effort to save money. Of the positions left vacant by early retirement, some were eliminated and others lost to attrition.

By far, the public safety sector is bracing for the biggest hit. Spokane County estimates that sector comprises 70 percent of the budget and both the Spokane County Sheriff and county prosecutor have been asked to cut somewhere between 11 and 12.5 percent of their budgets.

The cuts that would need to be made to reach those percentages are sizeable. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said reaching that goal would require half of his patrol staff, or 25 deputies, to be cut.

The prosecutor's office would see cuts just as steep. To cut their budget by around 12 percent, 10 prosecutors would have to be cut along with seven staff members. Limiting staff to that level would put the office back to levels similar to those in the 90s.

Other departments that make up less of the budget would also experience cuts. The other cuts vary in percentages across the board, depending on the size of the sector.

Some sectors, like elections, can only cut so much as they are mandated by law to accomplish their duties such as sending out ballots.

While the cuts are deep and widespread, decisions have to be made in a short amount of time as a budget has to be presented to commissioners in early December.

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