The Seattle City Council’s initial budget package proposal focuses on “getting funds out the door,” for immediate intervention on housing, human services and public safety, despite an unexpected downturn in revenue.

Select Budget Committee Chair Teresa Mosqueda’s initial proposal, which she introduced to her colleagues Wednesday, reflects a $15 million revenue shortfall discovered after Mayor Jenny Durkan introduced her original $7.1 billion budget in September.

To compensate for revenue that wasn’t realized from downtown commercial parking and JumpStart payroll taxes, which decreased in the fourth quarter due to the resurgence of COVID-19, Mosqueda says she focused on moving funds to better respond to short term city needs.

She said she and her staff scoured and “looked at every corner” of the mayor’s proposed budget. “We looked at every single department to see where funding was available so that we did not have funding sitting in coffers waiting on shelves in 2022, that could be instead used immediately,” Mosqueda said during a committee meeting on Wednesday.

“Every department received the same level of scrutiny. Every department had the same litmus test of whether or not there was general fund dollars that we could use to get out the door in this moment of need,” she said.

Specifically, the package moves JumpStart payroll tax funds to ongoing priorities previously determined by the council, replacing one-time funds Durkan had allotted. 

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“Lenders and other institutions will be less likely to back funding for affordable housing if they don’t know that there’s going to be a reliable funding source year-over-year for housing projects,” Mosqueda said after Wednesday’s meeting.

Of the nearly $234 million in anticipated JumpStart funds, $85 million will go to the general fund, including $35 million in new spending.

Highlights of the initial package include:

  • A $192 million investment in affordable housing, including $97 million from the JumpStart tax, which the city collects from employers for each salary over $150,000 annually.
  • More than $27 million for “Healthy & Safe Communities,” which Mosqueda says includes adding positions for 911 dispatch, 20 additional fire recruits, mental health assistance for firefighters and police officers, and alternative response for low-level emergency calls and other efforts to keep residents out of the criminal justice system. 
  • A $2.5 million investment in mobile mental and behavioral health crisis services and a roughly $30 million plan to partner with King County on additional mental health crisis facility beds.

Council members will meet to discuss the proposed budget at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, will vote on any amendments to the package next week and are expected to take final budget action on Nov. 22. All meetings are currently remote and can be found at seattle.gov/council.

The package drew criticism from Durkan and Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell when it was published on Tuesday due to the proposed $10 million cut from the Seattle Police Department’s budget, which they say is counter to public safety

Mosqueda said Wednesday that by funding Durkan’s proposed pay plan and necessary technology in the police department, the general fund cut maintained necessary public safety efforts.

In a public hearing late Wednesday, residents who spoke before press time were largely supportive of the things prioritized in the package, and many urged the council to go further.

“Defunding SPD by $10.9 million in the balancing package is a great start,” Cailey Condit, a professor at the University of Washington said. “Council should go further and defund all 340 positions that SPD dos not intend to fill next year.”

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