(Seattle Channel video of mayor’s budget speech)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Mayor Jenny Durkan is announcing her budget proposal for the next two years. (
Click the “play” button above for the live stream from Seattle Channel at Fire Station 10 downtown.) It’s almost $6 billion a year. Just before leaving City Hall to present the speech, she hosted reporters in the mayor’s office conference room to provide background on toplines. We were among those invited – so here are some notes of interest.
She was joined by the city’s budget director Ben Noble, who acknowledged that the budget includes a “significant increase,” but he and Durkan stressed that it is balanced and includes “sustainable” sources of funding for a variety of city programs as well as recognizing that revenue growth is slowing, while inflation is on the rise.
A few big-picture notes – close to half the budget, $2.6 billion, goes to utilities: Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities. That’s separate from the city’s General Fund spending, which Noble said is proposed to go up six percent next year. The budget has a “focus on basic city services … that our taxpayers expect,” promised the mayor.
Some specific areas:
PUBLIC SAFETY: 40 new police officers – above attrition – are proposed, 10 next year and 30 in 2020. In the Fire Department, the mayor wants to add 120 new fire recruits. Noble said the added personnel are needed because maintaining required staffing levels is currently leading to lots of overtime. Durkan said that Chief Harold Scoggins found savings in other areas to cover the cost of adding personnel. We asked for specifics; fuel savings was mentioned, and they promised to provide details of others.
Back to police, the mayor does include money for 12 Community Service Officers – as originally called for by the City Council – and says they will be part of a new Collaborative Policing Bureau.
UTILITIES: 24 people will be added in the Customer Call Centers to reduce wait times. The mayor said City Light in particular needs a lot of “re-tuning” and she expects to spend a lot of time with new GM Debra Smith – assuming the council confirms her – doing that.
TRANSPORTATION: The city wants to pay the county to add yet more bus service – 100,000 more hours. In all, more than $600 million is budgeted for transit/transportation, including $101 million for “maintenance and replacement of key roads, trails, bike paths, bridges.” No specific projects mentioned for our area, but there was talk about dealing with the upcoming Period of Maximum Constraint downtown, including signal adjustments to keep transit and other traffic flowing. The mayor also mentioned going to Olympia to try to get approval for transit-lane-blocking enforcement cameras. (This would be a repeat try.) She promised they’ll be working “block by block” to figure out how to keep people moving.
HOMELESSNESS: Next year’s budget includes $89 million total in all areas in which the city deals with this, up a bit from this year’s $86 million. The spending includes “increased case management” for tiny-house villages (sanctioned encampments); we asked what that might mean for a specific encampment such as Camp Second Chance in West Seattle, and were promised details on that too. (Currently the city’s contracted camp operator. LIHI, provides a case manager, paid from what it gets annually to run the camp.)
The city’s going to try a “safe parking” program again for people who live in vehicles, with $250,000 allotted for that. No specifics of where/when, yet. And the Navigation Team will be increased.
NEIGHBORHOODS: $4 million is included to continue the Matching Fund program that funds many programs and projects around the city.
IF YOU REALLY LIKE NUMBERS: Noble explained that city revenues are “highly dependent on the local economy.” Sales, business/occupation, and utility taxes comprise more than 56 percent of what goes into the city’s General Fund. They’re continuing to grow but more slowly – this year sales tax was expected to go up 8.7%, but next year 3.5% and 2% in 2020; B&O is expected to grow 7.4% this year, 5.1% next year, 3.3% in 2020. The city expects construction activity to drop more than 10 percent over the next two years, while inflation is “creeping up,” in the three percent vicinity. But Noble stressed, “this is not a recession forecast – it’s a slowing of growth.” And new revenue streams are helping – $22 million a year from the “soda tax,” which at one point was expected to drop dramatically as the years went on, but, Noble said, other cities that have it are NOT seeing those drops so it “provides an opportunity to use these monies to fund more sustainable activities.”
THERE’S MORE: What’s above is just part of what was discussed at the briefing and a small part of what’s in the budget. The full document is due out now (update: find it here) and we’ll be reviewing it for other notes of interest that we’ll add to this report later.
WHAT HAPPENS FROM HERE: The City Council spends the next ~2 months reviewing the budget. District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold outlined the process – and how you can get involved – in her newest online update.