With ambitions curtailed by a predicted downturn in city tax revenue and with the impact of a wave of tech layoffs looming, the Seattle City Council’s “rebalancing package” of Mayor Bruce Harrell’s a $1.6 billion 2023 budget proposal is on the table this week with what council budget chair Teresa Mosqueda says is an “anti-austerity” approach “keeping our community cared for and housed, connected and resilient, and healthy and safe.”
The council’s planned changes range from shifting JumpStart tax revenue back to its initial purpose of addressing the city’s resiliency and homelessness crisis including an important cost of living adjustments planned for salaries for workers at human service providers that will nearly double the $15.5 million the mayor was aiming to spend, to a key reorganization decision that will keep parking enforcement resources at the Seattle Department of Transportation, to accounting maneuverings that will slice 200 unfilled positions out of Seattle Police so $29 million of the department’s other priorities can be funded.
Some smaller pet projects, meanwhile, will be cut including an amendment from District 3 Kshama Sawant that targets $2 million for gun detection technology championed by the Harrell administration.
The council’s public hearing on the proposed spending package — and the final opportunity in the weeks-long 2023 budget process — is Tuesday night:
Final Public Hearing — Tuesday, November 15 at 5 PM at City Hall — People wishing to testify can participate online and are encouraged to do so given the ongoing nature of COVID. In-person testimony will be accepted as well.
“There weren’t easy answers in this year’s budget, but there were core values to start from: transparency and accountability, investing in key and core city services for our working families and small businesses, and preventing cliffs in services and avoiding austerity to ensure a resilient economy,” budget chair Mosqueda said in a statement.
Earlier this month, revised forecasts predicted a major downturn in city tax revenue — “a net $64 million decrease in Real Estate Excise Tax revenues,” “a net decrease of $9.4 million in general fund revenues,” and “a net decrease of $4.5 million in revenues from the Sweetened Beverage Tax” — that delayed the budget process for a week while the council scrambled to make the math work out.
CHS reported here on the mayor’s initial budget proposal and its steps back on Seattle reforms including spending to create a larger SPD and a now-stymied attempt to redirect funding from the city’s JumpStart big business tax from COVID-19 recovery, housing, and the Green New Deal to patch up the city’s general fund. The council’s budget package also thwarts Harrell’s proposal that would have restore SPD’s budget back to $375 million — up $20 million from the current budget — by abandoning a compromise reform from the “Defund SPD” debate to transfer parking enforcement back to police control.
In 2021, Seattle moved the around 100 parking enforcement employees in the city from SPD command to the Seattle Department of Transportation. At the time, the decision ended debate of whether parking enforcement officers should be part of SDOT or a new Community Safety and Communications Center. Around 140 emergency dispatch employees were also moved to staff the new center and SPD officials have advocated that the parking enforcement officers should join them.
Mosqueda’s proposal would stop Harrell’s reversal of that shift.
Harrell’s plans also called for nearly $40 million for “clean city, trash mitigation, encampment resolution, and RV remediation initiatives.” His plan for a new Unified Care Team that would help maintain “clean and accessible Seattle neighborhoods, parks, and open spaces” including sweeping encampments and clearing tents from public spaces like parks remains intact.
The council’s top changes to the spending plan and full roster of amendments are below.
Other highlights include raising the city’s contributions to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund to $1.5 million. A Sawant proviso would also require $200,000 to be spent to support the Garfield Super Block effort. A proposed “2023 Seattle City Council Statement of Legislative Intent” would call on SDOT to “identify policies and opportunities to promote pedestrian uses through woonerfs, shared spaces, traffic calming, and other design treatments, including the Capitol Hill Super Block.” CHS reported on the latest back and forth on a proposed pedestrianization of Pike/PIne’s core here.
Following Tuesday’s hearing, the council will have one final opportunity to introduce amendments to adjust the package before voting on the final budget proposal the week of November 28th.
Mayor Harrell can then choose to approve the budget, veto it, or let it become law without mayoral signature. He must veto the entire budget or none of it. Even then, the council can override the veto as it did with Mayor Jenny Durkan in 2020 as the sides clashed over reduced police spending.
Key investments include:
- Human service provider inflationary increases to stay true to previously passed legislation and ensure our city’s domestic violence, homelessness, and food security providers do not fall farther behind;
- $20 million each year in Equitable Development Initiative projects that advance economic opportunity, prevent displacement, and meet community needs with developments that include things like housing, childcare, space for small business, cultural and community space;
- $20 million Green New Deal investments each year, including nearly $4 million in investments to create community climate resilience hubs, $4.6 million for indigenous-led sustainability projects, and $1.8 million to community-led environmental justice projects;
- A $9 million investment each year into School Based Health Centers, including a new $3 million investment across the biennium for mental health services in schools in response to demand for more mental health providers; Funding the Seattle Fire Department emergency response capacity by funding the medic unit at Fire Station 26 and the ladder truck at Fire Station 27 to continue to serve West Seattle and South Park;
- Created a combined total of $1.5 million in 2023 for abortion care to ensure access to comprehensive reproductive care for uninsured individuals in Seattle; and,
- An historic $253 million investment into the Office of Housing for affordable housing – that is an over $50 million increase over last budget for building rental housing, more supportive services, and first-time ownership opportunities only made possible by JumpStart, and that amount is just for 2023 with an increase in 2024
Other key investments in the Initial Balancing Package may be found here.
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