City Budget Process

Synopsis

The City budget is proposed by the Mayor (Executive), checked for compliance by the City Attorney, and amended and passed by the City Council (Legislative) before returning it to the Mayor for his or her approval and signature. The budget itself is composed of two main documents: a budget ordinance that provides departments with the authority to spend City funds and a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that authorizes the use of funds in the construction and maintenance of infrastructure and systems, such as utility lines, roads, public buildings, and major software projects.

Copies of proposed and adopted budgets are available to the public at the Seattle City Budget Office (CBO), the Seattle City Clerk’s Office, the Seattle Public Library.

The Executive and Legislative Process

Submittal of Proposed Operating and Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budgets

The budgeting process begins early each year as departments assess needs and budget forecasters work to estimate revenues and costs. Operating budget preparation is based on the establishment of a current services or "baseline" budget. Current services consist of continuing programs and services the City provided in the previous year, in addition to previous commitments that will affect costs in the next year, such as a voter-approved levy for new park facilities, as well as labor agreements and changes in health care, insurance, and cost-of-living- adjustments for City employees.

During the budget preparation period, the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), working in conjunction with the City Budget Office (CBO), makes two General Fund revenue forecasts, one in April and one in August. Both are used to determine whether the City's projected revenues are sufficient to meet the projected costs of the current services budget. If revenues are not sufficient to cover the cost of current services, the City must identify changes to close the gap - either through reductions or increased revenues or a combination of both. If the revenue forecast shows that additional resources are available, then the budget process identifies new or expanded programs to meet the evolving demands for City services. Regardless, the City is required by state law to prepare a balanced budget.

In May, departments prepare and submit Budget Memos to City Budget Office (CBO) for analysis and mayoral consideration. The Mayor's Office reviews and provides direction to departments on the Budget Memos, giving direction on items they should include in their formal budget submittal. In early June, CBO receives departmental operating budget and CIP submittals, including all position (employee) changes. Mayoral review and evaluation of department submittals takes place through the end of August. CBO, in conjunction with individual departments, then finalizes the operating and CIP budgets.


deadline on a calendar
Oct 3
Submittal of Proposed Budget and CIP

The Mayor is required under state law to submit a proposed budget by October 3rd (90 days before the start of the fiscal year). It is common for the Mayor’s budget to be released in late September.

Each year, the Mayor and the City Budget Director prepare a proposal for an operating budget and a six-year CIP budget. Along with the proposed budgets, CBO prepares and transmits to council supporting legislation and other documents related to the passage of operating and CIP budgets.

The operating budget is primarily composed of expenditures required to deliver services to the residents of Seattle. The CIP provides for large, often multi-year expenditures on infrastructure and other capital projects, such as fixing, improving, or adding new City facilities.

After the proposed budget and CIP are submitted, the City Council

holds a series of Budget Committee meetings in open session throughout October and much of November to hear feedback from the public, discuss budget requests, and receive policy analysis from the Council Central Staff. Councilmembers then propose specific budget actions for consideration by their colleagues. During the budget review process, the City Council documents its budget proposals by developing “Statements of Legislative Intent” (SLI) and “Green Sheets” (GS) for future budget action.

SLIs describe the Council’s expectations in making budget decisions and generally require affected departments to report back to the City Council on results. A GS is the mechanism that the Council uses to modify the Mayor’s proposed budget, e.g., increase or decrease revenues; increase or decrease expenditures for specific programs or services; and other modifications.

The Budget Committee also holds two public hearings in the evening to provide additional opportunities for the public to provide input.


analysis of charts
Adoption of a Budget and CIP

Under state law, the Council must consider and adopt a budget by December 2 (30 days before the fiscal year).

After completing the public hearing and deliberative budget meeting processes in October, the Chair of the Budget Committee will propose an Initial Balancing Package of changes to the Mayor’s proposed budget. Other Councilmembers may propose further adjustments to be included in a Chair’s Revised Balancing Package. This Revised Balancing Package, which is subject to further amendment in committee, forms the basis for the Council’s Adopted Budget. After the City Council votes to adopt the budget, in late November. The Mayor can choose to approve the Council’s budget, veto it, or let it become law without mayoral signature.


Executive Process Budget Process – In Detail

The budgeting process begins early each calendar year as departments assess needs and budget forecasters work to estimate revenues and costs. Operating budget preparation is based on the establishment of a current services or “baseline” budget. Current services consist of continuing programs and services the City provided in the previous year, in addition to previous commitments that will affect costs in the next year, such as a voter-approved levy for new park facilities, as well as labor agreements and changes in health care, insurance, and cost-of-living- adjustments for City employees.

During the budget preparation period, the City Budget Office (CBO) makes two General Fund revenue forecasts, one released in April and another in September. Both are used to determine whether the City’s projected revenues are sufficient to meet the projected costs of the current services budget. If revenues are not sufficient to cover the cost of current services, the City must identify changes to close the gap – either through reductions or increased revenues or a combination of both. If the revenue forecast shows that additional resources are available, then the budget process identifies new or expanded programs to meet the evolving demands for City services. Regardless, the City is required by state law to prepare a balanced budget. A third revenue forecast is release in late October or early November, during the Council’s budget review process.

In May, departments prepare and submit Budget Memos to CBO for analysis and mayoral consideration. The Mayor’s Office reviews and provides direction to departments on the Budget Memos, giving direction on items they should include in their formal budget submittal. In early June, CBO receives departmental operating budget and CIP submittals, including all position (employee) changes. Mayoral review and evaluation of department submittals takes place through the end of August. CBO, in conjunction with individual departments, then finalizes the operating and CIP budgets.


Over the course of the year, budget modifications may be necessary.

Council reviews proposed changes to the budget and solicits public input during these deliberations as well.


For more information see the Seattle City Council's Budget website and Budget Glossary.

During the budget cycle, details of the process and legislation are highlighted on the City Council home page.