Seattle got a new budget Monday, after two months of City Council debate over Mayor Jenny Durkan's proposal.
Seattle will get a new budget Monday, after two months of City Council debate over Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal.
The council hasn’t made sweeping changes to the mayor’s plan for 2019 and 2020, which totals $5.9 billion per year, up from $5.6 billion this year.
Instead, council members have crammed their politicking into about $16 million in slices and dices.
No head tax
This year’s budget talks were less explosive than in 2017, when some council members pushed to adopt a per-employee tax on large businesses.
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Only Councilmember Kshama Sawant again sought a head tax, arguing the money could be used to shelter homeless people and build public housing.
Her colleagues also rejected her proposal to boost shelter and housing by trimming their own salaries and making deep cuts in areas such as police hiring.
Some council members popped Durkan for using $5.7 million in larger-than-expected soda-tax proceeds to balance her overall budget.
Because the tax hits poor people hardest, the revenue was supposed to be used to help those people access healthy foods and education.
Undoing the swap would have required the council members to plug a $5.7 million hole in the mayor’s budget. They instead requested a law that would prevent the tax from being raided again.
Dollars for causes
Council members scrounged money for various special causes, such as an a legal network that protects immigrants from deportation and loss of status.
Councilmember M. Lorena González championed a $400,000 boost for the network. Some additions were smaller, such as the $44,000 that Sawant secured for the city’s annual Indigenous People’s Day celebration.
Nonprofits that use community programs to help people deal with the criminal-justice system proposed that the city transfer more than $4 million from probation and jail contracts to their own work. The council allocated an additional $1 million for 2020 but without slashing probation.
Another council action will allow the activist groups SHARE and WHEEL to keep their homeless shelters open through 2020.
Dollars for districts
With the council’s seven district-based seats up for election in 2019, some council members were under pressure to bring home the bacon.
Red light, green light
To help pay for budget adds, the council asked every Seattle department to save a bit more and grabbed money from red-light camera tickets.
Pedestrian advocates balked when Councilmember Sally Bagshaw proposed moving $2.7 million in ticket income away from school sidewalk and crosswalk projects.
But Bagshaw said the projects still would get done, thanks to higher-than-expected proceeds from school-zone cameras. Her colleagues stood by her.
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda couldn’t persuade her colleagues to put $340,000 behind a racial-equity analysis of Seattle’s growth strategy, which restricts new apartment buildings to urban villages while reserving most residential blocks for single-family houses.
But the council will ask the Durkan administration to start work on an analysis, anyway. Funding could come later, with Mosqueda hoping to build support for more more housing options in neighborhoods.
The council agreed last week to scale back an expansion of the city’s homeless Navigation Team, which provides outreach to people living outside before removing unauthorized encampments.
Mosqueda sought the move as a way to raise wages by 2 percent for more of Seattle’s contracted human-services case workers. Facing some blowback over the Navigation Team adjustment, the council may look elsewhere for the money on Monday.