Among other things, the Seattle mayor’s 2016 budget would buy body cameras for every police patrol officer and hugely upgrade the city’s bike-share system.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed 2016 budget would buy body cameras for every police officer on patrol in the city and add staff for a new planning department.
“Building a sustainable city means managing growth, reducing poverty and creating an enduring economy,” the mayor said in an annual budget speech Monday that emphasized investments related to residential development and housing affordability.
Murray’s budget would total $5.1 billion in spending, including capital funds, and would feature $1.1 billion in general-fund spending, a 4.5 percent increase over 2015.
The proposal, which closely resembles past budgets with regard to funding for basic public services, builds on a 2016 road map that the City Council endorsed last year.
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The council, as it reviews the budget, will hold public hearings at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 and Oct. 20 at City Hall. The council will seek to adopt a final version on Nov. 23.
Thanks to an ongoing building boom, new construction now accounts for 25 percent of the city’s sales-tax revenue, more than ever before, Murray said in his speech. It accounted for 10 percent at the bottom of the recession, his office said.
The budget would allocate some of that money to one-off projects, including new and renovated facilities for cultural institutions such as the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard, Town Hall on First Hill and the Burke Museum in the University District.
Additional revenue reaped from construction projects would pay for a massive expansion proposed for the city’s Pronto bicycle-share system, which launched last October.
If Seattle secures a $10 million grant for the system from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the city would chip in $5 million more. The expansion would increase the number of stations from 50 to 250 while adding electric bikes.
To guard against an economic bust, the mayor’s budget would increase the city’s financial reserves by $7.3 million, bringing them to a historic high of $106 million.
“We are experiencing a strong economy — and a construction boom — that has generated higher-than-expected revenue for next year. But the revenue growth we see today cannot be sustained,” Murray said. “This construction cycle will end, just as all the others before it. My budget recognizes this reality, making modest ongoing commitments while focusing on one-time investments that will pay dividends.”
The mayor’s budget reflects $47 million in new funding for parks because the Seattle Park District that voters approved last year will begin collecting property taxes.
The mayor in June announced he would seek creation of a new agency to handle growth and the building boom. His budget would establish an Office of Planning and Community Development with 34 redeployed planners and nine new hires.
Under Murray’s plan, the existing Department of Planning and Development would disband. Its regulatory and permitting functions would be shifted to a new Department of Construction and Inspections. The city would spend $1.3 million to make the change.
Seattle police officers have tested two types of body cameras, and officials have said they hope to equip all patrol officers next year. But officials are still working through how to store video from the cameras and respond to public-disclosure requests.
Murray’s budget would set aside $1.8 million for cameras, augmented by $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice. It would grow the department by 30 officers.
The mayor acknowledged concerns from some residents about the city authorizing homeless encampments for the first time and siting them in neighborhoods.
“But we have no alternative” he said. “In unsanctioned camps, people have been murdered. People have been raped. People have fallen to their death on the freeway.”
Though Murray’s budget would allocate $1.5 million more for homeless services than planned, Councilmember Kshama Sawant after the speech called that insufficient.
“This budget will mean yet again allowing the disgrace of homelessness to continue in our city,” she said in a prepared response to Murray.
Sawant said the 2016 budget should do more to help black households and an African-American community challenged by crime and gang violence. She plans to host a “People’s Budget” event on Oct. 27 at City Hall.