SNOHOMISH CO., Wash. - Painful decisions are ahead for Snohomish County, as serious financial cuts must be made.
The county council chair says they're in the worst financial shape they've even been in, and that could result in a hiring freeze.
A number of departments came forward at the council’s meeting Wednesday morning to plead their cases against a hiring freeze, saying services will suffer.
“The basic financial health of the county is poor,” Snohomish County Council Chair Dave Somers told KIRO 7 after the meeting, where the council voted to postpone a decision on the freeze until at least next week.
The chair of the Snohomish County Council says there is no denyingsomething has to be done or the county will be broke.
"Our general fund situation is bad. We're down between five and six percent reserves and really we don't have enough money on a day to day basis to pay our monthly bills,” said Somers.
Somers blames down revenues, lawsuit settlements, expenses at the jail and the response to the landslide in Oso.
The county was expected to pass the hiring freeze on Wednesday but tabled it because of people like Sonya Kraski.
"I would like for there not to be a hiring freeze,” said Kraski, the Snohomish County clerk.
She says her office has already cut 20 percent of its staff since the first hiring freeze in 2008.
She has four vacancies now she says she'd like to fill for the public's sake.
During an average year, the county clerk's office files about 1,600 protection orders.
This year, the number will be closer to 1,800.
Since it's a safety issue, they try to get it done the same day they’re requested, but that's tough to do, says Kraski, when they are understaffed.
And it can lead to errors. Mande Smith has spent countless hours at the courthouse trying to straighten out a paperwork mix-up.
"How important do you think it is they're fully staffed?" she was asked.
"They're not. They're not [now],” she said.
Somers doesn't want that but he doesn't want a general fund running on fumes either.
"I'm real concerned,” he said.
The Snohomish County executive is not as concerned and neither is Brian Sullivan, the council member who proposed the freeze.
County Executive John Lovick is adamantly against the freeze, and while Sullivan obviously supports his own proposal, he said that the financial situation is not nearly as dire as Somers suggested.