The Seattle City Council’s budget committee Monday approved a $1 billion general-fund budget for 2014 that directs new money to public safety, early education, and shelter for homeless youth and families.
An improving revenue outlook, bolstered by stronger sales- and property-tax receipts, allowed officials to increase overall spending after several years of cuts. The budget adds police officers, resources to fight downtown crime and money to plan for a universal preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been on the council that we’ve been able to substantially enhance services,” said Budget Committee Chairman Tim Burgess, who was first elected to the council in 2007.
The panel approved $3.1 million to enhance public safety throughout the city. One million dollars would go toward a team to investigate use of force in the Police Department. Half a million would be spent on a management study of the department, which has been under federal scrutiny over excessive use of force and biased policing. A quarter-million dollars would go to Mayor-elect Ed Murray’s national search for a new police chief.
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A federal monitor’s draft report last week found resistance to reform in the department’s command staff; error-ridden data collection; and failures to analyze use-of-force incidents by officers.
Although the city has substantial information about problems in the department, council members said they want answers about the overall working of the department — including how officers are deployed and how resources are being used.
”We’re going to have a new mayor and a new police chief. I want zero excuses why we don’t have the most effective department we can have,” said Bruce Harrell, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee.
Some $1.1 million was added to a downtown crime-reduction program known as LEAD — Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion — which offers drug and prostitution offenders treatment options as an alternative to criminal prosecution. The money will expand the program from Belltown through downtown to Pioneer Square and the Chinatown International District.
The funding also will strengthen a multidisciplinary team of police, mental-health and social-service providers, to tackle other types of street crime and disorder.
Program advocates had said they needed more than that to address the estimated 500 people living on the streets downtown. Now they say they will have to determine how many people they can adequately provide with case management and treatment services.
Lisa Daugaard, policy director of the Public Defender Association, the lead agency for the program, cautioned that not everyone needing help will get it. “With less resources, we need to be really clear about what we can accomplish.”
Some $880,000 was added to move families and young adults living on the streets into housing. Some of the money will go for additional shelter space.
“No significant family-shelter space has been added in years,” said Councilmember Nick Licata. “Today’s action will help the nearly 250 families in King County sleeping with their children outside, in cars, or in abandoned buildings.”
The City Council will vote on final approval of the budget next Monday, but no significant changes are expected.
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes