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City Council wraps up 2022 budget with focus on ‘Housing, Homeless Services, Healthy & Safe Communities’

Seattle added a new Black Lives Matter outside City Hall in 2021 (Image: City of Seattle)

The Seattle City Council put a bow on the city’s annual budget session Monday with a vote approving the $7.1 billion spending plan marked by increased spending on the city’s three major crises: affordable housing, homelessness and addiction, and COVID-19 recovery. There were plenty of echoes of recent budget sessions past including a major tangle over ultimately minor changes to Seattle Police, and, yes, another year without unanimous approval as District 3 representative Kshama Sawant continued her long-running practice of voting against the final spending package.

Like last year, Sawant blasted colleagues and budget chair Teresa Mosqueda Monday for an unwillingness to make more substantial changes to the way Seattle spends its revenue. The big change, Sawant said, is how her fellow council members were spinning the numbers, saying last year’s budget “was described by the same council members as on track to defund the police by 50%, which was not true.” This time around, Sawant said she could not join the council’s efforts when “the police budget is actually growing.”

Sawant is facing a December 7th recall vote in a campaign that has focused as much on her political style as the charges brought against her.

Overall, the council’s final 2022 budget package includes $355 million for SPD, a $7 million cut from 2021 and $10 million less than Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan called for.

CHS reported here on Durkan’s final budget before her term ends and she leaves office to make way for Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell with a plan built on the city’s new payroll tax, recovery, and a final burst of federal pandemic aid. Harrell has promised to focus on bolstering the city’s police force.

Seattle Police union president Mike Solan, meanwhile, applauded the stand on police spending. “The city council’s vote on today’s budget is the beginning of a great political pivot away from unreasonable activism and back to the moderate policies that made Seattle the Emerald City,” Solan said in a statement to KIRO.

The 2022 plan also calls for the city to spend new millions on efforts to boost public safety beyond police including a new crisis response team.

The budget plan’s financial underpinning will be weaker than originally planned with an updated revenue forecast proved slightly bleaker in several key areas, including the high-earner JumpStart payroll tax, which hasn’t begun to be collected but is now expected to bring in lower than expected revenue this year due to increased work at home rates. Parking rates downtown are also forecast to come in lower than expected. But city revenues from real estate are expected to increase, leading to some budget shuffling but fewer across-the-board impacts. But if remote work continues further into 2022 than the city currently expects, more cuts could be needed.

It is not all dire. Forecasts support enough of an economic recovery that many city departments are largely getting back to normal: Seattle Parks and Recreation, for example, will be reallocating money back to redeveloping new sites for future parks, and the Seattle Public Library will be looking to add longer operating hours that were promised to voters as part of the last library levy in 2019.

Next year also marks the transition of all of the City’s homelessness service contracts away from its direct control, to the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. With that transfer, the City loses its ability to dictate that money for homelessness services in Seattle is spent in exactly the way it wants. The KCRHA is hoping to receive funding to set up a new shelter downtown for people living unsheltered who suffer from behavioral issues. That would work in tandem with Mayor-elect Harrell’s pledge to build 2,000 units of housing in his first year in office, which could include shelter beds.

In terms of city streets, the budget for the Seattle Department of Transportation’s budget is fairly stable, with big-ticket projects like the RapidRide G line and the repair of the West Seattle bridge, scheduled to reopen in mid-2022, taking center stage. As several members of the City Council seek to boost the department’s spending on bridge maintenance citywide, the department is being allocated an additional $5.2 million that should allow it to complete some key projects.

Durkan’s budget would also restart work on the Center City Connector streetcar project, which has been on ice since 2018.

In a statement, budget chair Mosqueda highlighted the final budget plan’s highest ever planned spending on affordable housing.

“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. “The Council’s budget rightly invests more in the emergency reserves while prioritizing spending limited public dollars to serve, care for and support working families and our local economy.”

Unprecedented $194M Investments in Affordable Housing:

  • $165M for the creation of new, affordable rental housing, nearly twice the amount invested in previous years – focusing on funding shovel-ready projects to leverage available state and federal dollars

  • More than doubling the City’s investments in first-time home ownership development to build generational wealth in communities impacted by past discriminatory policy

  • $97M for affordable housing coming directly from JumpStart progressive tax

Funding Solutions to our Homelessness Crisis:

  • $15.4M in new investments in homelessness services that the new Regional Homelessness Authority will administer

  • $1.5M in Vehicle Residency Outreach and Safe Lots

  • $5M to leverage community & county partnerships to create a high acuity shelter

  • Protecting over $10M for tiny house village short-term housing solutions

  • $9.3M for cleaning up litter and garbage across the city

Creating a Connected Community and Thriving Economy:

  • $22.5M in economic recovery and resilience investments from the JumpStart progressive revenue tax rooted in creating equitable, creative, and culturally appropriate opportunities for entrepreneurship

  • Authorizing up to $100M in bonding capacity to repair bridges around the city

  • $16.4M for Green New Deal and climate resilience investments

  • $14.4M in transportation projects focused on maintaining and enhancing our transportation infrastructure, safer streets for people walking and biking, expanding mobility access for all abilities, and activating our public spaces.

Investing in Healthy and Safe Communities:

  • There are no cuts to Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers or officer salaries

  • Fully funds SPD’s hiring plan: 125 new officers in 2022

  • 26 new positions to the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) to address the existing 911 dispatch operational needs

  • Expands the Community Safety Officers (CSO) program by 6 more officers bringing the total funded positions to 24

  • $2.5M to expand mobile mental and behavioral health crisis services

  • $3.9M increase for LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) which is a post-arrest/pre-booking diversion program

  • $10.4M in funding for organizations working toward community-led solutions to end violence and increase safety in BIPOC communities

  • $26.4M for overtime for officers

  • Restores the $4M in the Community Safety Initiative cut by the Mayor’s proposed budget for gun violence and youth violence reduction programs

 

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