WHERE YOUR MONEY MIGHT GO: Our miscellaneous notes from proposed 2018 city budget

Monday afternoon, the City Council‘s biggest fall task – budgeting – got into gear with newly appointed Mayor Tim Burgess presenting the proposed 2018 budget.

After taking a look through much of it (you can find all the links here), plus the resulting standalone announcements, a few notes:

BUDGET BOSS: West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold will lead the council through its review and finalization process. Burgess had been chairing the Select Budget Committee; Herbold was vice chair of the committee whose portfolio included finance, which meant it was likely she’d become the budget boss, but not finalized until a council vote on Monday.

HEADLINER: Burgess’s big headline proposal was the “Seattle Retirement Savings Plan” for workers whose employers don’t offer retirement plans. It’s explained here.

From a few of the city departments’ budget plans:

TRANSPORTATION – Its budget notes are here. Catching our eye:

Arterial Paving – (adding) $500,000: Heavy use and winter weather take their toll on city streets. SDOT’s Arterial Major Maintenance program addresses deteriorated pavement and uses City crews to pave one to three street blocks. The 2018 Proposed Budget includes a one-time investment of Real Estate Excise Taxes to augment the $4.9 million base budget for this program.

The next one didn’t say which of the five city-operated bridges (which include the West Seattle “low bridge”) would be the subject of the pilot project, but it’s notable because it could lead to automation of all five:

Bridge System Enhancements – $3,000,000: The City operates five movable bridges that open approximately 15,400 times annually. To operate these bridges, SDOT employs 23 bridge operators who operate the bridges 24/7. The proposed budget includes a one-time commercial parking tax allocation to pilot automation of one of Seattle’s movable bridges during 2018. This investment includes a remote operations location as well as communication and video enhancements. If the pilot is successful, it will take three to five years to automate all the City’s movable bridges and could result in approximately $1 million in annual cost savings as well as reduce or eliminate unnecessary bridge openings.

Speaking of pilot projects, a West Seattle SDOT project is mentioned here:

CIP Staged Oversight Proviso: The City is developing a more consistent approach to the planning, budgeting, design and delivery of capital projects with the goal of improving the overall quality, responsiveness, and success at meeting project schedules and budgets. As part of this effort, the proposed budget will pilot two projects by placing spending restrictions on them. For SDOT, the pilot project is the Delridge Multimodal Corridor Project where spending will be restricted until Seattle Department of Transportation reports to the Sustainability & Transportation Committee, or its successor committee, on the 10% design baseline package in a format requested by that committee’s chair.

The biggest part of the Delridge MCP is the conversion of Metro Route 120 into RapidRide Line H – still a couple years away.

SCHOOL SAFETY TRAFFIC PEDESTRIAN IMPROVEMENT FUND: That’s what the city calls the fund that now holds 20 percent of the revenue from school-zone speed cameras. Its budget section is here. From the budget document:

At the end of 2016, the City operated a total of 28 cameras in 14 school zones. SDOT did not install additional cameras in 2017. SDOT collected speed data at more than 130 schools in the first quarter of 2016, and, based on the preliminary findings of that study, the department will evaluate the feasibility of up to 11 locations for school camera siting. The department estimates that it will winnow the list of these candidate locations and may add up to 10 additional cameras, two per site, in 2018.

Right now four schools have nearby speed-ticket cams in West Seattle: Gatewood Elementary, Boren STEM K-8, Roxhill Elementary, and Holy Family Catholic School.

PARKS AND RECREATION: Its highlight list is here; its section of the budget doc is here. What we noticed:

Fund New Off-Leash Area – $40,000: This item funds the on-going maintenance and potential lease costs for a new off-leash area anticipated to open in 2018. The CIP has $100,000 of one-time REET to create a new off-leash area at a to-be-determined location. The People, Dogs & Parks Plan published by DPR in 2017 lays out the process through which a community can petition DPR for a new off leash area. It is anticipated that one or more communities is interested in petitioning DPR, and these funds are being set aside to support one of those efforts.

While no community was named, another part of the city budget suggests an off-leash area is on the way for Georgetown. Meantime, with one of the city’s four golf courses in West Seattle, this is of interest – the parentheses around that first number means it’s a deficit:

Golf Operations Support – ($1,102,135): This item addresses the estimated shortfall in golf revenues in 2018 of approximately $900,000 by using unappropriated 2014 King County Parks Levy funding. This adjustment also includes about $155,000 of technical changes done annually to adjust the golf budget to match updated projections. To address longer term financial issues with golf, the department is proposing to hire a consultant in late 2017 to undertake a comprehensive review of the program. The goal is to develop options to close the structural shortfall starting in 2019. These options, which could require difficult policy decisions and significant changes to the golf program, will be discussed as part of the 2019-2020 budget process.

Elsewhere in the budget, it’s noted: “In 2016, the Golf Program recovered 93% of its expenses, short of the 105% goal.”

POLICE: SPD’s section of the budget is here. Nothing West Seattle-specific of note, but if you’re wondering about the state of police hiring, and the added officers promised by former Mayor Murray, this section addresses that:

Address Crime and Quality of Life Issues: Continue Accelerated Police Officer Hiring

In 2014, the City committed to adding 100 net new police officers to the SPD. In April 2017, the City doubled that commitment, revising the goal to 200 net new police officers above 2013 levels by early 2020. The need for more police officers is substantiated by both community concerns and a 2016 staffing study that recommended SPD hire additional officers. The 2017 Adopted and 2018 Endorsed Budget advanced the 200 officer goal, by adding resources to support 72 net new officers. The officers added in last year’s budget process increased the size of the SPD sworn force to 1,493 officers. The new 200 officers, once fully trained and deployed, will represent a 15% increase in the size of the sworn force above 2013 levels. The 2018 Proposed Budget maintains without modification the levels set forth in the 2017 Adopted and 2018 Endorsed Budget to advance the City’s commitment to hire 200 net new officers.

Many departments have budget items addressing the homelessness emergency, and SPD is among them:

The 2018 Proposed Budget provides funding to add a second Navigation Team to specifically target individuals who are living in vehicles. In order to craft the appropriate service package for this new Navigation team to offer, the City must better understand the needs of people living in vehicles. The 2018 Proposed Budget includes funds to conduct a needs assessment to identify programs and services most likely to help individuals living in their vehicles find permanent housing. Based on the outcomes of the needs assessment, the proposed funding would fund programs and services, such as increased capacity in our authorized encampment network including case management services, diversion funds and/or rapid rehousing dollars.

Another note of interest in the homelessness-related funding:

The 2018 Proposed Budget transfers the City Director of Homelessness position from the Office of the Mayor to (Finance and Administrative Services) – providing a direct cabinet-level focus on the work within FAS – and adds another position to oversee MDAR compliance.

NEIGHBORHOODS: Nothing dramatic in this section of the budget, but for those who watch its internal workings:

Repurposing of Neighborhood District Coordinators – $43,192
This item provides funding to cover the reclassification of the Neighborhood District Coordinator positions to Community Engagement Coordinators to reflect their new duties. In 2016, the City increased its efforts to implement equitable outreach and engagement to ensure more inclusive participation and this reclassification is in response to that initiative.

A note elsewhere in the budget mentions that the department expects to save about $11,000 on rent because the former neighborhood-district coordinators are no longer renting office space in neighborhood service centers and are instead based downtown.

Again, those are just various notes from our browsing of the budget docs. So what’s next? This page outlines upcoming meetings, public hearings, and feedback opportunities.

4 Replies to "WHERE YOUR MONEY MIGHT GO: Our miscellaneous notes from proposed 2018 city budget"

  • Mike September 26, 2017 (8:56 am)

    Re the replacement of bridge tenders with automation:  the first time there is a system failure and somebody gets killed, several years of that $1 million savings are gone.  

  • Michael G September 26, 2017 (10:10 am)

    By using automation , They will reduce or eliminate unnecessary bridge openings. Isn’t that the Bridge Tenders job? 

  • trickycoolj September 26, 2017 (12:02 pm)

    I would wonder how they would deal with a stuck bridge situation if they’re operating remotely. It isn’t unheard of to have either South Park or the Low Bridge stuck open. 

  • millie September 26, 2017 (4:52 pm)

    City management doesn’t disappoint.   Yet another example of ill-conceived program savings by city administrators.

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