The Seattle City Council will vote on a $1.15 million police hiring incentive ordinance this month after reaching a compromise Tuesday between two proposals in committee.
During a Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, Committee Chair Lisa Herbold and Councilmember Sara Nelson reached middle ground on their previously conflicting proposals to release funds for recruitment incentives for the Seattle Police Department.
In the last committee meeting, Herbold proposed an ordinance to lift a 2022 budget proviso, allowing the department to spend $650,000 in unused salary and benefit funding — or “salary savings” — from unfilled positions to pay hiring incentives.
Similarly but more broadly, Nelson proposed legislation in March and April that would ultimately allow the department to access the entirety of the protected salary savings, currently estimated by council central staff to exceed $4 million this year.
Simultaneously, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced he was working on a separate hiring plan to be announced sometime this spring.
This week, Nelson and Herbold introduced amendments to each other’s legislation, reaching enough consensus to pass both items through committee and get Harrell’s endorsement.
“My resolution sets the stage for releasing restricted funds in SPD’s budget to pay for incentives and other recruitment support strategies,” Nelson said Tuesday, noting she originally “didn’t care” about the specific dollar amounts when she introduced the idea in March.
“I figured I would leave that to the executive to really devise a system that would be competitive and that the council would later approve,” she added. “I simply wanted to provide the policy framework to discuss what’s going on in our city and give our residents, our constituents a chance to weigh in.”
Herbold sponsored an amendment to “right-size” Nelson’s original resolution, adding language that limits the statement of intent to lift the proviso for just enough funds to “implement and administer a staffing incentives and recruitment support program,” while recognizing that some of the salary savings may be needed to offset an anticipated budget shortfall in 2023.
“The language as [originally] written sort of presumed we were going to make all of the money available in salary savings for this purpose, and this gives us some opportunity to sort of right-size that investment,” Herbold said.
Similarly, Herbold’s original ordinance to free up $650,000 of the more than $4 million in salary savings to cover hiring incentives was amended Tuesday by Nelson, increasing the freed amount and broadening its application.
The now $1.15 million amended ordinance includes up to $350,000 in additional funds for a “national ad campaign to market police officer positions to potential candidates,” and up to $150,000 to pay for a national search to hire a permanent chief of police.
In all, the new version of the ordinance would free up around 15% of the projected salary savings if passed.
Nelson’s resolution and Herbold’s ordinance were both approved 4-1 by the committee, with Councilmembers Herbold, Andrew Lewis, Nelson and Alex Pedersen in favor, and will be voted on in full council May 24.
Budget chair Teresa Mosqueda voted against both proposals, arguing that the council should not be allowing SPD to spend the extra funds as the city faces a projected $35 million revenue gap in 2023.
“This is not the time for us to be giving over money to SPD to use in this critical juncture where we are asking other departments to put a hold on current spending and potentially think about reductions next year,” Mosqueda said.
Harrell released a statement Monday endorsing the amended versions as first steps in his forthcoming plan to improve city staffing.
“These two thoughtful proposals complement one another,” Harrell said. “As my administration continues to develop a comprehensive plan to restore police staffing, this is a reminder that when we work together and unite around shared values and common purpose, we develop better ideas that put us on a path toward better results.”
According to the mayor’s office, Harrell will present his “more comprehensive recruitment strategy” to the council before summer, with “further specific funding recommendations.”