Seattle’s King County criminal justice system, which sustained steep cuts in 2009, could lose another $37 million next year, meaning fewer police, prosecutors, jailers, and public defenders, say budget projections reported by Seattle Post-Intelligencer.com. In a memo to county agencies, Budget Director Bob Cowan outlined an estimated $50 million budget gap in 2010 and asked all departments to prepare for 11-percent “target” reductions. Six months ago, county officials were forced to reduce spending by $93 million.
The Sheriff’s Office, which lost 47 deputy positions last year to unincorporated areas, has closed its vice and complex fraud units. County prosecutors set a higher bar for felony charges in property crimes, and closed down a complex financial crimes unit to keep up with caseloads. Criminal justice costs cover about 70 percent of the general fund, about $628 million this year. The struggling economy has slammed the general fund, which relies on revenue from sales and property taxes — the latter which already are capped at 1 percent a year, allowing inflation to outpace revenue.