The Seattle City Council gave final approval to a 2022 budget that prioritizes affordable housing, homelessness and response to economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, while making reductions to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s vision for the Seattle Police Department.
Council members voted 8-1 Monday to pass an amended, $7.1 billion budget package that invests over $200 million in affordable housing and homelessness solutions and trims about $10 million in unspent salary funding from SPD’s budget.
While the budget in many ways mirrored the council members’ stated priorities — including housing, homelessness and mental health response — a $15 million revenue shortfall caused by the pandemic and a divide among city leadership over police funding led to an unenthusiastic consensus on the council.
“For all of us here on the council, I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself, to vote in favor of this budget does not necessarily signify agreement with every component, but does signify a respect for the process,” Councilmember Andrew Lewis said Monday of the budget, which includes:
• $355 million for the Seattle Police Department including funds to hire 125 officers in 2022, a more than $7 million decrease from last year and a $9.9 million reduction from Durkan’s proposed budget.
- A $194 million investment in affordable housing, including $97 million funded by revenue from the council’s JumpStart payroll tax.
- Authorization of up to $100 million in bonds to repair bridges around the city.
- $16.4 million for Green New Deal and climate resilience investments.
- $15.4 million in new funding for homelessness services under the new Regional Homelessness Authority.
- Over $10 million for tiny house village short-term housing solutions.
- $5 million to help create a high acuity shelter with community and county partners to help stabilize unsheltered people experiencing health crises.
- $2.5 million to expand mobile mental and behavioral health crisis services.
- $3.9 million increase for the city’s LEAD post-arrest/pre-booking diversion program.
- $1.5 million in Vehicle Residency Outreach and Safe Lots for people living in vehicles.
Though multiple council members shared Lewis’ sentiment on Monday, Committee Chair Teresa Mosqueda celebrated the budget votes in a release, touting the council’s response to COVID and related revenue shortfalls.
“The council’s 2022 budget responds to the most pressing crises facing our city in the wake of COVID and rising income inequality by creating affordable housing, sheltering more who are homelessness, ensuring equitable economic recovery, and investing in public safety,” Mosqueda said.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who faces a recall vote in her district next month, cast the sole vote against the budget, citing a lack of progressive reforms.
“The budget deliberations this year and last year could not be more different. Those differences are mirrored in cities across the country,” Sawant said, noting that the 2021 budget process took place in the immediate wake of the racial justice demonstrations in the murder of George Floyd.
A supporter of the Solidarity Budget — an activist-drafted budget which proposes reducing the Police Department’s budget by 50% and investing the money in community, environmental and other nonpolice causes — Sawant said she supports several amendments, but could not support the budget as a whole.
“This year, council members have gone to great lengths to say that the police budget is actually growing slightly, which in real terms is true. But what’s striking about this is that council members are going overboard to make sure that everybody knows that the police budget is actually growing,” Sawant said. “That is a real contrast from last year, the same police budget was described by the same council members as being on track to defund the police by 50%, which was not true.”
While Sawant was the only member to vote against the budget, she was not alone in thinking further SPD reductions could have benefited the community.
“This was a hard budget year, in my opinion, made harder by a reluctance to reject some very troubling budgeting practices by our Police Department,” Councilmember Tammy Morales said during the meeting, listing supportive housing, back-rent payments and other investments she would have rather funded with further cuts from SPD’s full $19 million in salary savings from 134 unfilled positions in Durkan’s budget.
Though the budget fully funds SPD’s current staff and plan to hire 125 new officers in 2022, it reduces Durkan’s proposed police budget by $9.9 million in salary savings from positions expected to remain vacant in 2022.
Durkan and Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell both have said in recent weeks that the council’s proposed budget went too far in whittling down public safety funding.
“The mayor will review council’s final proposed changes. The mayor is assessing the continued impacts of council’s continued cuts to public safety at a time of gun violence, increasing 911 response times and record numbers of officer departures,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said late Monday, while also crediting the council for maintaining investments in housing, small business and other shared priority areas.
A representative of Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell said Monday that the budget fell short on some of Harrell’s public safety priorities.
“The Council’s approved budget does not contain all the public safety investments the Mayor-elect would have liked to see. However, he does support the funding restored last week for additional Community Service Officers,” spokesperson Jamie Housen wrote in an email Monday.
“For future budgets, including the second distribution of American Rescue Plan Act funds early next year, the Mayor-elect looks forward to being involved in the process from the beginning and working with the Council to better align on goals and produce budgets that best reflect the priorities demanded by Seattle residents,” Housen wrote.
The council also began to set the tone for ongoing priorities by approving resolutions to request King County and the state of Washington to “increase services to address behavioral health conditions,” and another expressing council’s “intent to establish a right to portable Paid Time Off (PTO) for domestic workers” and requesting the Office of Labor Standards to “work with community stakeholders to draft legislation creating a portable PTO policy for domestic workers.”