King County drops 1,500 misdemeanor cases due to staffing shortage | KUOW News and Information

King County drops 1,500 misdemeanor cases due to staffing shortage

Feb 27, 2018

People arrested last year in unincorporated King County for offenses like shoplifting, illegal dumping or criminal trespass will not be prosecuted.

As of this week, the King County Prosecutor’s Office will dismiss misdemeanor cases that occurred between May and December of last year.

The prosecutor’s office is dismissing the cases because there aren’t enough deputy prosecutors. The office says it will instead prioritize fresh cases and more serious offenses.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“The iceberg has been there a long time,” said budget director Dwight Dively. 

He said that for nearly two decades public safety agencies like the prosecutor’s office have had to cut back staff because there isn’t enough money coming in. Property tax revenue is the main source of funding for these agencies. And state law caps property taxes at one percent.

"What that one percent limit is, is that you take your property tax revenue from a particular year, and the next year the most you can collect is one percent more than that," Dively said.

Over time, revenue has not kept up with inflation and population growth.

The county executive’s office has made reforming the one-percent cap a legislative priority for several years.

Dively said that as the county prepares for the next budget cycle, other agencies that are in trouble are ones that rely on the general fund, such as the sheriff’s office and public health. Agencies like Metro and waste management are doing well. 

But Dively added that money can’t be moved around to where it’s most needed. In other words, elected officials can’t use Metro money to hire more prosecutors.