Mayor Ed Murray is proposing increased taxes and fees on Seattle businesses to help pay for the hiring of additional police officers.
Mayor Ed Murray on Thursday proposed increasing taxes and fees on Seattle businesses to help pay for the hiring of additional police officers.
When Murray took office in 2014, he promised he would grow the city’s police force by 100 officers in his first term. During his State of the City speech in February, he promised an additional 100 officers by 2020, assuming he wins a second term.
The mayor has so far boosted the force by about 50 officers, a quarter of his overall goal. To meet that mark, improve Seattle’s 911 call center and complete other police-technology upgrades, the city must spend $37 million per year, he said Thursday.
The mayor is asking the City Council to increase business and occupation tax rates and the business-license fee by $14 million per year. Murray is asking the council to cover the remaining $23 million needed with money from the city’s general fund.
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The council has already approved $15 million in general-fund spending for police-officer hiring, which means the mayor’s new proposal requests another $8 million.
Murray suggested he and the council come up with the extra money by “reprioritizing existing resources” and “identifying inefficiencies.” He offered no specifics.
“Public safety is the paramount duty of local government,” the mayor said in a news release Thursday. “As one of the fastest growing cities in America, we face serious strains on our public-safety resources that must be addressed.”
The council will consider Murray’s plan as part of putting together a new budget later this year. Council members didn’t immediately comment Thursday.
Just last week, Murray announced he would not be proposing a tax levy to help pay for the construction of a new $160 million police precinct in North Seattle.
He had previously talked about a public-safety levy but now says that won’t be necessary because the city is collecting record sums with its real-estate excise tax.
Earlier this week, the mayor rebuffed calls by a union to increase the budget of his labor-standards office by raising taxes on businesses. Murray asked the council to tap the general fund, instead.
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is opposed to the city taxing businesses to pay for ramped-up labor-standards enforcement, but President Maud Daudon said her group is “willing and open to considering” Murray’s officer-hiring plan.
“The [chamber] has long advocated for more Seattle police officers,” Daudon said. “The mayor’s proposal is a thoughtful approach informed by careful research.”
Murray is calling for a 3.2 percent hike in business and occupation tax rates, over two years. Those rates have not grown since 1991, he said.
The increase would generate $8.4 million per year and cost a business with $1 million in annual revenues an additional $70 per year.
The mayor is also proposing hikes in the business-license fee, with different increases depending on a company’s size. Those would generate $5.8 million per year.
Murray said calls to the 911 call center are up 13 percent from 2010. He said planned technology upgrades include support for body-worn cameras for officers.