Slow recovery ($300M) or rapid recovery ($210M), Seattle preparing for COVID-19 to rip big hole in city budget

With forecasts including Depression Era-level unemployment, the City of Seattle is preparing for a potential 20% blow to its budget for vital services as it plans its recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Mayor Jenny Durkan said it too soon to know if the city employee workforce will need to be reduced and also said she doesn’t think a payroll tax on big business can save the city.

“There are no mechanisms or tricks to magically have money to address that budget shortfall,” she said of the proposed tax.

“The City of Seattle’s Budget Office today announced two economic scenarios for a rapid recovery scenario and a slow recovery scenario,” a statement from Durkan’s office on the budget update reads. “Both scenarios highlight significant job loss, high unemployment and impacts to the City budget which range from $210 million to $300 million.”

The scenarios will be presented to the Seattle City Council Wednesday. The full presentation on the situation is embedded below. Continue reading

With cuts beginning, officials sorting out COVID-19 budget damage from Seattle City Hall to Olympia

A view of Seattle during the COVID-19 crisis

Doesn’t look so bad from up here (Image: CHS)

As COVID-19 rages on both locally and nationally, one big question that looms over governments at all levels is what this means for budgets and the services they fund.

With weakening revenue forecasts and increasing unexpected expenditures, Seattle and the state are scrambling to rejigger budget estimates as they constantly evolve in a rapidly changing situation as a virus with over 7,500 cases as of Saturday rages on in Washington.

Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda, who chairs the council’s Finance and Housing Committee, has been holding weekly check-ins with the City Budget Office to assess the impact this could have.

The 40% of the general fund made up by sales and business and occupation taxes is going to get hit pretty hard with less activity in the city, CBO director Ben Noble said. The B&O tax is paid quarterly and the sales tax comes on a six-week lag, meaning it can take time to fully understand the shortfalls that could result from such a devastating pandemic.

“We’re kind of blind to the impact in the moment and we don’t know how long this is gonna last,” Noble said. “There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty.”

The federal relief bill might give the city some “flexible money,” according to Noble, but not much. Continue reading

Council set to add homelessness and ‘restorative justice’ spending to Seattle’s 2020 budget

The final major action of the current version of the Seattle City Council will apparently be the addition of a progressive encasement to the city’s $6.5 billion 2020 budget including increased spending for restorative justice programs and more money for shelter and homelessness services in the city.

Monday, the council is set to approve a final version of the city’s 2020 budget after weeks of proposals and debates to transform Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $6.5 billion package and its core of public safety-focused spending and smaller sale social line item tied to “one-time” revenue infusions from events like the Mercer Megablock sale and public benefits cash received in exchange for public right of way used in the expansion of the downtown convention center.

Led by budget chair Sally Bagshaw, the council’s changes to the budget package left Durkan’s core fully intact but redirected many elements on the surface of the massive spending package in more progressive directions like funding to open three additional tiny home villages, $1.5 million for a new youth homeless shelter, $1.8 million for a health clinic to be embedded in a shelter, and $1.28 million for mobile bathroom facilities to serve the homeless population.

An addition of $150,000 proposed by Lorena González for a Capitol Hill “Public Life” study that could someday lead to the creation of a pedestrian and bike only Pike/Pine superblock also made the cut.

But the biggest winner in the 2020 budget, Crosscut reports, is the city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, with the effort focused on pushing low level offenders into services, not jail, coming through the council’s budget process with $3.5 million in 2020 funding, a 50% expansion Durkan’s administration did not include in its budget proposal.

For advocates of restorative justice, the addition of $300,000 in one-time funding for youth diversion and education programs championed by the council’s members including District 3 representative Kshama Sawant will also be a small victory. Continue reading

Sawant makes one last 2020 budget push to cut encampment sweeps team

The City Council’s final batch of proposed additions, cuts, and changes to the Seattle budget are on the table and District 3’s newly victorious incumbent Kshama Sawant is behind several of the options up for final debate.

Seattle City Council insight reports that most of the more than 40 items introduced Wednesday involve restrictions on the the use of already-budgeted funds, “provisos that prevent the expenditure of certain funds until some condition is met,” or statements of legislative intent. Continue reading

Sawant to hold ‘Renters Rights & Restorative Justice’ rally heading into session to finalize Seattle’s 2020 budget

Fresh off apparent victory in the race to retain her District 3 seat, Kshama Sawant is hoping to gather supporters for a “People’s Budget” rally supporting social justice and tenants Wednesday morning.

Leading into Wednesday morning’s session on the Seattle City Council’s package of proposed additions, changes, and cuts to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $6.5 billion 2020 budget, Sawant is asking for support for a handful of line items poised to make the cut:

Our People’s Budget movement should celebrate victories already won in this proposed budget!

*$1.8 million to open two or three additional Tiny House Villages to get homeless neighbors off the streets immediately. We need to keep fighting for more tiny house funding. Continue reading

Seattle City Council 2020 budget tweaks include Tiny Home Villages, Capitol Hill ‘Public Life’ study, ‘mobile bathroom facilities’

The Seattle City Council unveiled its 2020 budget balancing package but further bad news about I-967 could mean another scramble before all is said and done.

Budget chair — and outgoing council member — Sally Bagshaw unveiled the package (PDF) of around 150 proposed additions and updates to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2020 budget proposal Wednesday morning. CHS reported here on Durkan’s $6.5 billion 2020 budget plan where some of the big gains — and small, too — in the proposal come from “one-time” revenue infusions from events like the Mercer Megablock sale and public benefits cash received in exchange for public right of way used in the expansion of the downtown convention center. Continue reading

Sawant budget proposals: $1M to power Central District community development, free public transit study, and salary cuts for council counterparts and mayor

The Seattle City Council is getting its plan together for adding to, cutting from, and introducing a twist or two to City Hall’s 2020 budget. Tuesday night will bring a second and final public hearing on the process before the final jockeying begins:

Budget Public Hearing – 5:30 PM
Seattle City Hall | 600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Last week, CHS reported on a couple interesting issues for Capitol Hill as the council shakes out its proposals. There’s likely to be an addition of $150,000 for a Capitol Hill “Public Life” study that could someday lead to the creation of a pedestrian and bike only Pike/Pine superblock. And there’s a potentially multimillion decision to be made over the future of the city’s Navigation Team charged with cleaning up homeless encampments. Other debates over the LEAD program and more are coming.

In addition to some of the big decisions, District 3’s representative Kshama Sawant has a few items she is asking her fellow council members to consider. While she takes some heat for not introducing a lot of legislation — she’s sponsored 129 pieces in her time in council chambers — Sawant’s office has come up with a few notable budget proposals over the years.  Continue reading

Clean-up vs. outreach — A 2020 budget battle builds over team on frontlines of Seattle’s homelessness response

“A member of the Navigation Team checks to see if anyone is in this tent and is interested in a to-go bag of food and water provided by neighbors,” the city says of this image posted to seattle.gov. The Navigation Team is also the city’s answer to clearing illegal encampments. (Image: City of Seattle)

A Kshama Sawant budget proposal to defund the city’s crew assigned to clearing out homeless encampments has the mayor’s office firing back but the Seattle City Council still might move to cut back the team.

Sawant’s proposal discussed Thursday would move more than $8 million lined up for the homeless response Navigation Team to “redirect those funds for other homeless services.”

A competing proposal from West Seattle rep Lisa Herbold would attach quarterly performance measurements to the mayor’s funding of the program.

It is also possible additional proposals for cutting back — or growing — the Nav Team will emerge as the budget process plays out into November.

The city describes the Navigation Team as “a specially trained team comprised of outreach workers paired with Seattle Police Department (SPD) personnel.” Continue reading

City Council holds public hearing on 2020 Seattle budget proposal

The Seattle City Council will hold a public hearing Thursday night on the 2020 budget.

Typically, the hearing is the first chance for the public to speak out on funding issues in the mayor’s proposal that kicks off the annual process.

CHS reported here on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $6.5 billion 2020 budget plan where some of the big gains — and small, too — in the proposal come from “one-time” revenue infusions from events like the Mercer Megablock sale and public benefits cash received in exchange for public right of way used in the expansion of the downtown convention center.

The City Council is busy shaping the edges of the 2020 proposal in a process that will continue through the month.

D3 representative Kshama Sawant’s office is calling on her supporters to speak out Thursday night on affordability in the city and the proposed rent control legislation she rolled out last month:

We need rent control, and what’s clear after our rent control committee last month is that people are ready to fight for it. Over 250 people packed City Hall at our vibrant discussion On September 23 at City Hall, where we unveiled our movement’s draft rent control legislation, and heard from renters, small landlords, workers, and community members. We have collected 12,000 signatures from ordinary people across the city who are demanding rent control, and 20 labor and community organizations have endorsed rent control in Seattle!

Thursday’s session begins at 5:30 PM and will be broadcast by the Seattle Channel.

Durkan’s 2020 budget proposal tips $6.5B with big boost from the Megablock and smaller items like Convention Center cash for Lambert House

(Image: City of Seattle)

There were small bits of good news for Capitol Hill and the Central District sprinkled into larger chunks of progress in Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $6.5 billion 2020 Seattle budget proposal unveiled Monday.

“We must do more to lift each other up. We must build more housing, especially housing near transit, so that the nurse assistants, restaurant workers, and the teachers right in this building can live in the city they make great,” Durkan said in her speech on the 2020 proposal given Monday morning at Franklin High School.

Some of the big gains — and small, too — in the proposal come from “one-time” revenue infusions. “For example, the sale of the Mercer Megablock properties and payments to the City associated with the expansion of the Washington State Convention Center have provided significant resources for both housing and transportation investments,” the budget proposal’s executive summary reads.

A good example easily lost in the $6.5 billion worth of line items is $500,000 earmarked for Capitol Hill’s Lambert House. CHS reported last year on the queer youth nonprofit’s efforts to purchase the 15th Ave house it calls home. The 2020 budget will put proceeds from street vacations associated with expansion of the Washington State Convention Center to boost the effort: Continue reading