Monday afternoon, the first-term mayor and longtime Olympia politician pointed his city forward with a new budget plan for how Seattle should spend its newfound wealth powered by a nearly unprecedented construction boom while doing more to address inequity and strengthening its reserves for the inevitable slowdown:
Seattle has received an outsized share of the region’s growth during the recovery. At the same time that the Puget Sound region’s recovery has been stronger than the nation’s, Seattle’s recovery has outpaced the recovery of the rest of the region. This can be seen by looking at taxable retail sales data (the tax base for the retail sales tax), one of the few relatively current measures of economic activity available at both the county and city levels. Over the four year period 2010-14, taxable retail sales increased by 35% in Seattle, compared to gains of 23% in the rest of the metro area and 22% in the rest of the state; i.e., outside of the Seattle metro area (see Figure 4). Most of Seattle’s relative strength is due to a 77% increase in construction activity. The rest of Seattle’s tax base has grown only modestly faster than that of the other areas.
Seattle’s dependence on the construction boom revenue is a concern — limits on property tax increases and other state taxing throttles mean the city needs to prepare for days when the boom slows. Murray said we’re missing out on $33 million in property taxes alone if the rate were allowed to track inflation instead of being capped at 1% by Olympia.
The entire 761-page, 15.1 MB budget document is embedded at the end of this post.
Included in Murray’s $5.1 billion proposal released Monday:
- $1.8 million to fund body cameras for every patrol officer and budget to hire 30 new police officers in 2016, keeping the city on pace for 100 additional officers by 2018
- The death of the DPD as the Department of Planning and Development is proposed to be split into a more efficient Department of Construction and Inspections, and a more people-friendly Office of Planning and Community Development and “a new Mobile City Service Center that will travel to neighborhoods throughout the city.”
- A “streamline” of services and “shift” of funding to homelessness programs “that provide the best outcomes” with an “emphasis on preventing the loss of housing.” The mayor also proposes Seattle provide $200,000 to fund “three permitted encampments on public lands.” Continue reading