Shortly before the County Council’s failure to approve Executive Constantine’s sales tax increase for the sheriff’s office, the four (technically non-partisan) Republican members of the Council proposed an alternate plan to provide that revenue by redirecting property tax flows.
This is not to be confused with the “Democratic” property tax plan that failed yesterday. Instea,d this plan would eliminate $10m in annual funding from the only recently instituted ferry and transit property tax, at a time when Metro is trying to find a way to plug a $50m-ish hole before the bottom falls out in 2012.
It’s unclear how much of that $10m would fall on Metro, but it’s enough money to fund about 80,000 hours of service, or almost 11 buses running 20 hours a day, 365 days a year. Reagan Dunn, who was joined by the rest of the Eastside delegation (Jane Hague, Kathy Lambert) and Pete von Reichbauer of Federal Way, said “Voters are demanding that government prioritize vital services while respecting the pain felt by working families across King County.”
Larry Phillips (Ballard) was quick with an opposing press release, pointing out the urban-rural valence:
“Public safety is important, but cutting away vital quality of life services like transit and parks isn’t the way to pay for it,” said Phillips. “In my Seattle district, employees and employers rely on transit for getting to work, while the Sheriff’s deputies they would have to pay for under this proposal only patrol unincorporated areas outside cities. This makes no sense for them.”
If these four leaders find another Councilmember to support the measure, the proposal would go to the ballot in November.
32 Replies to “Property Tax Proposal would Cut Metro Revenue”
And any further proposed cuts will probably hurt the Seattle/North King subarea even more, based on the current 40/40/20 formula.
Cuts are actually done about 60/20/20. Each subarea bears cuts in proportion to its service.
That’s terrible. I assume Seattle is the 60?
From what I heard at a SLU CofC transport meeting today at which Larry Phillips was speaking, it might be even a little more than 60%. Gaaack!
Imagine how much a mess situations like this would be if we had just one transit agency for the entire region… That’s the biggest problem with that proposal.
Things like this make we want to go study Virginia with it’s ‘counties’ and ‘independent cities.’
King County better not put the screws to Seattle with cuts. They need to cut the employee medical benefits and salaries first. County employees still have an insurance plan that is no cost to them. I work for the state and we do not have that nor do we continue to get raises each year. County employees need to step up to the plate and “chip in”!
County employees’ insurance plans *do* have a cost, and part-time bus drivers who work under 4 hours per day pay a portion of their premiums. We ALL have copayments, out of pocket expenses, and uncovered services. Personally I selected Group Health which is the cheaper plan. It is nearly identical to the plan that I had when I worked at a nonprofit organization 2 years ago, and I didn’t pay towards my premiums there either.
Demanding sweeping sacrifices from frontline County employees “just because” isn’t a reasonable argument. If you really want to save some serious money at King County, take a look at the bloated salaries and redundant and unnecessary upper management and administrator positions there. The number of people earnign over $100K per year in salary alone in King County government in nonmedical positions is ASTOUNDING.
The $100K Club
I’m not sure Eric made the argument “just because,” but rather because there is a serious budget crisis within in King County in general and Metro in specific.
Some in the private sector have to pay a portion of their premiums, some do not, so I see where you’re coming from. But it’s no secret that unions push compensation for employees above the market-clearing or equilibrium level (that’s their major utility for union members), and it’s to be expected that taxpayers will question that at times.
As for upper-management, I have no idea whether their compensation is “just” or not but it seems to me that there are much fewer transit system managers in the world compared to bus drivers. Similarly, as a computer programmer, I am more well compensated than… well, a bus driver.
I guess, from a strictly economic point of view, we could probably compensate bus drivers less and still have a qualified driver on every route (given hiring and training time). However, could we compensate those members of the “$100k club” much less and still have qualified administrators?
To question your assumptions: Have you shown that these positions are “redundant and unnecessary”? (Why is any one driver not redundant with the rest of the 2,700 drivers?) Have you illustrated these salaries are “bloated” — which I would take to mean that those administrators would be willing to work for much less?
I wouldn’t take this comment as a true representation of all of my views on this subject, but I think the type of populism expressed with your $100k idea doesn’t withstand scrutiny. It’s insincere to directly compare the salaries of management to bus drivers since they perform entirely different duties with no overlap. Whether they’re good at the jobs or not is one thing, but the mere existence of the job provides no evidence to the reader that it is unnecessary or poorly executed.
could we compensate those members of the “$100k club” much less and still have qualified administrators?
Yes. We could also have a lot fewer administrators.
I encourage you to take a look at the database of County employees and salaries from 2009, which can be sorted by job title, department, or compensation level. I argue that many of the positions currently compensated in excess of $100K (and many around the borderlines of that number) are either unnecessary, or grossly overcompensated. Within Metro for example, 57 of the 96 Transit Chiefs grossed over $100K last year. These are supervisors (many/most of whom are themselves former bus drivers) whose duties and responsibilities mirror second-tier middle managers in the private sector.
At Publicola, there’s an article today about a Fed proposal to boost funding for operating expenses. It quotes a ST “spokesperson” as expressing support, and a Metro spokesperson who says she cannot comment. That Metro spokesperson – Ogershok – grossed over $108K last year. I would bet that job (“Communications Manager”) could be done as or more competently by someone else for a lot less – or done away with entirely.
I’ve done white collar work – 20 years worth. I’ve been a Network Administrator. I understand about skill sets and competitive salaries, and what it takes to attract and retain talent. My naievete quotient in this regard is quite low.
Metro is top-heavy as hell, and those at the top spend an inordinate amount of time and energy protecting their inflated salaries and unnecessary jobs by pointing fingers at fronline workers’ compensation packages to divert attention from their own.
I think the type of populism expressed with your $100k idea doesn’t withstand scrutiny.
So scrutinize it. The County will do so, hopefully, with a compensation comparison study will doubtless shed at least some light on how County administration stacks up in this regard.
It’s insincere to directly compare the salaries of management to bus drivers since they perform entirely different duties with no overlap.
I would agree that such a comparison would be insincere.
Who made such a comparison? Not me, certainly.
the mere existence of the job provides no evidence to the reader that it is unnecessary or poorly executed.
Nor does the mere existence of the job provide any evidence that it is necessary, or well-executed. Or for that matter – appropriately compensated.
it seems to me that there are much fewer transit system managers in the world compared to bus drivers
Uh-huh. So what?
Why is any one driver not redundant with the rest of the 2,700 drivers?
“Redundant” in this context refers to an hour of pay to an hour of service to the County. Eliminate a driver and you eliminate an hour of service – or shift it to another operator at equal (or greater given benefit additions) cost.
Eliminate a supervisor, and in many cases you just save money. Reduce salaries way out of proportion to private or even other public sector jobs with comparable respnsibility, and you just save money.
I’m guessing that Ogershok, or any number of dozens if not hundreds of high-paid County employees’ positions could be completely eliminated without any negative impact on public service whatsoever. I know as much as any observation based opinion can be equated with knowledge that any given transit base could do with at least one fewer Chief, and probably at least half a dozen fewer supervisors without any negative impact on transit service.
THAT is what I mean by “redundant”. When a second-tier middle manager with a level of responsibility probably on a par with a nonprofit Program Coordinator or a Costco Store Manager is pulling in over $100K per year plus substantial bennies – THAT is what I mean by “inflated”. At one time (not sure what the case is this year), Metro’s Facilities Maintenance Division – the folks who perform custodial services for the 7 bases, service driver comfort stations and park and rides, etc. had 5 Chiefs – 4 of whom earned over $100K per year, and an administrative assitant. That was over half a million dollars just to SUPERVISE custodians. That half-million didn’t count the cost of wages for the custodians themselves.
The County IS top-heavy, in most if not all departments, and talk of cutting at the top is conspicuously absent from public discourse and comments coming out of “spokespersons” who themselves are members of the $100K club at King County.
it seems to me that there are much fewer transit system managers in the world compared to bus drivers
Uh-huh. So what?
Well, when there’s a smaller supply of a particular type of labor, that labor is often going to cost more.
I’m guessing that Ogershok, or any number of dozens if not hundreds of high-paid County employees’ positions could be completely eliminated without any negative impact on public service whatsoever.
Maybe so, but the same guess could be made about charging drivers for their health care premiums or asking them to take pay cut. Metro might survive Ogershok’s dismissal, but then again it would survive hiring non-union labor entirely. By the way, Rochelle [Ogershok] does a great job.
I’m making these arguments to encourage you to stop feeling this is a management vs. labor dispute. Drivers and management are both responsible to taxpayers. If management is bloated, it should be curtailed. If drivers are too well compensated, that should be curtailed as well.
The folks who perform custodial services for the 7 bases, service driver comfort stations and park and rides, etc. had 5 Chiefs – 4 of whom earned over $100K per year, and an administrative assitant. That was over half a million dollars just to SUPERVISE custodians.
Are you saying this job is easy? So, is wage set based on the difficult of one’s job? Not from my learnin’: wage is [in a market] set by competition. If a “supervisor” can make $100k managing something else with his skill-set, and if Metro wants to hire him because he’s a good candidate, should they offer him less than the prevailing wage… why, exactly? So good candidates will turn down their offers?
Let’s just keep in mind that just an annualized $37 pay cut (1.8 cent per hour for a full time worker) for all bus drivers (2,700) is worth one of these “$100k club” members.
I thought the silly city vs. suburbs wars were coming to an end, but King County Republicans won’t let it happen, I guess.
Screw Seattle transit riders so rural sheriff’s patrols continue as scheduled. I hope they’re proud of themselves.
And this is especially ironic because most (perhaps all?) of Metro’s sales tax ballot measures were passed only because of Seattle voters! But for Seattle, there would be no Metro Transit (as we know it) for Republicans to rob.
Not just rural sheriff patrols, but also patrols for all the unincorporated urban areas that refuse to annex to cities… I don’t understand how these people can be so selfish, taking tax dollars from the entire county to pay for their local services.
Has the Lumber Baron named for St. Ronnie ever been dependent on public transport?
If it weren’t for his name and a boatload of inherited wealth, Reagan Dunn would [ad-hominem].
[comment policy complaining, ad-hominem]
Reagan Dunn has no respect for County workers. He’s been making the rounds cracking jokes about County employees. Aside from that, he appears to be a departure from historically moderate Republicans in this area, gravitating (as are many of his political peers) to the extremism of the Tea Party/Glenn Beck radical right.
These folks will gleefully destroy services to working families in King County, as they sit in their mansions looking down their noses at the “little people”.
As someone who is dependent on transit, this pisses me off.
So we’ll cut funding for public transit, so those that cannot drive have no way to get a job. Well, we don’t want to provide social services to them so I guess they’ll have to be homeless. But wait, we can’t have homeless people living on the streets of Seattle. That’s unsightly. Hmmm which service is the easiest to provide and does the most good for everyone? This is ridiculous.
As far as cutting salaries; we’re in hard economic times. There’s plenty of fat to be trimmed. EVERYONE should have to sacrifice a little to minimize the impact on the people of King County.
Personally I prefer opening the market to any and all, private mom and pop businesses or corporations and have noted on here that in 1915 private jitneys provided a significant source of transportation in Seattle.
That being said it is worth pointing out that AC transit in the Bay Area cut services to save $4 million or so. They ended up costing the community some ten times that amount or roughly $48 million.
When I was living in Turkey, cooperatives provided jitney services on certain routes or between two cities. I have wondered if something like that could be done on Highway 99 and Aurora between Everett and Seattle.
Are you sure this wouldn’t have the same 6-vote emergency requirement that the other proposals did?
My understanding is that the November ballot, at this point, needs only five votes.
“Both votes were 5-4 in favor of putting the taxes on the August primary ballot. But because of the short time left before the primary, six votes were required for the emergency-ballot ordinances to pass.”
but you can prove me wrong
I think it’s entirely reasonable that unincorporated areas of the county would want police protection rather than bus service. There’s plenty of bus service (mostly outside of Seattle) that needs to be cut. 209 (night) and 929 (peak and off peak) to North Bend; both at 2% fare recovery. 201 on Mercer Island, 3% fare recovery and 0.8 passenger miles per platform mile (i.e the driver is driving him/herself around alone most of the time). On the other hand I don’t think anyone (except maybe criminals) truly believes we need less law enforcement. Even if you live in Seattle anytime you visit County parks or say bike ride out in rural areas you’re relying on the Sheriffs department. The cuts would also result in releasing inmates that would likely be better off behind bars. Once released I doubt they’ll discriminate between incorporated vs unincorporated areas. In fact I’m pretty sure there are a lot of commuter criminals that “work” in Seattle and hideout in unincorporated areas. I’m willing to bet most of responsibility for fighting meth production falls to the Sheriff but affects the whole county.
This issue of playing one service off against another is a political parlor trick. In reality, the funding streams and differences in function make a claim of cutting one service to save another largely a ploy to either maniupulate the public into supportin the politically unpopular, or to goad service advocates into focusing on fighting with one another to prove who is more important as a distraction to holding our leaders accountable for making the difficult decisions.
It’s done at all ends of the political spectrums (spectra?). The left threatens to cut “vital services” to “save” services important to the bulk of the community; the right threatens to cut what they consider non-essential in order to further their goal of starving government and turning everything over to the private sector (and we see how well that’s working out with B.P.).
The priorities in this entire argument are all out of wack. Can bus service be cut and made more efficient? You bet. Could law enforcement benefit from comparable examination of efficiencies? Absolutely.
Meanwhile, it’s divert, divert, divert from the waste going on at the top – and all talk of cuts of jobs of folks at the bottom and direct services to the community.
Here is a non-criminal who thinks we already have plenty of sherrifs — at least in Seattle. How about this: You in the suburbs can have some of the police and sherrifs who are in plentiful supply in Rainier Valley.
But on another note, why isn’t the Council pushing the federal government (getting Patty Murray on board too) to free up more transit money for operations.
While we are at it, how about an income tax on the wealthy and redirecting some of that money they are going to POUR into the Mexican-U.S. border. The money is around, but what we are seeing is a setting of priorities so that there is no money to operate bus service — and so who is getting the short end of the stick are working poor people who can’t afford fare hikes, or people in Rainier Valley who are seeing bus service cut, like the Route 42, and the transit workers who are somehow being made out to be high paid (don’t make me laugh. Look at the shifts and level of injuries/illness/stress in the profession
Linda’s here! Thank God.
when there’s a smaller supply of a particular type of labor, that labor is often going to cost more
Not following you. Is it your contention that there are fewer transit managers than transit drivers because managers are in shorter supply? Can’t say I agree with that logic. Aren’t there *supposed* to be fewer managers than people managed?
And I also don’t recall arguing – anywhere, anywhen – that managerial positions shouldn’t be better compensated than line positions. In any hierarchical work environment, it’s appropriate and necessary in a capitalistic (or quasi-capitalistic) economic model that those with a skill set involving greater responsibility, accountability, knowledge, skill and time commitment be compensated at levels higher than those positions requiring less of those qualities in job responsibility.
Again – so? Not seeing what any of that has to do with anything that I’ve said.
Rochelle [Ogershok] does a great job
And even if she performs her assigned functions well – is her position worth $108,000.00 in yearly salary?
I’m making these arguments to encourage you to stop feeling this is a management vs. labor dispute.
I never claimed it was – so there you go again.
What I’m claiming – and I believe that this claim is highly supportable – is that the entire focus on budget discussions is on cuts to frontline workers, and there has been little or no discussion (certainly of the public variety) of whether or how the County can and should cut upper management positions. None.
Are you saying this job is easy?
No, I’m saying that having 5 people, 4 of whom earn over $100K per year, the 4th over $85K per year plus an adminiistrative assistant to supervise a handful of custodians is ridiculous. This is more than the entire budget of many small towns.
Middle mangangers should not be earning over $100K per year. Their skills, while important, are not specialized enough, rare enough, or their responsibilities large enough to warrant that amount of compensation for the jobs that they do. Remember – I didn’t step off the turnip truck yesterday. Unlike a lot of you STB’ers, I’m in my 40’s, have had more than one career already, and functioned in a variety of work environments at various levels. I have a pretty good feel for what is reasonsble and what is outrageous – and the compensation levels of the upper-middle (and even lower-middle) eschelons in County government are off the hook outrageous.
Meanwhile – while as you claim this is not a “manger vs. worker” thing, the only folks whose wages, positions, and benefits appear to be on the table for discussion are those at the LOWEST ends of the County pay scale.
Now why do you think that is?
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