Budget Season 2011-2012
The Mayor delivered his proposed budget to the City Council Monday, Sept. 27, and it’s ugly. I don’t mean that as a slam of the Mayor. Facing a $67 million funding hole that has worsened a little bit almost every day, he couldn’t deliver anything but a 2011-2012 budget filled with program cuts, layoffs and new fees.
We’re early in our review of the proposal, but so far the Mayor seems to have done a respectable job of limiting serious cuts tothe Fire and Police Departments that would affect response time and quality. Additionally, contracts for safety net services remain largely intact, although without inflation adjustments in most cases. That’s not to say there aren’t cuts proposed for services people value. Council has many questions about proposed changes to Crime Prevention and Victim Advocates, to name a couple.
Protecting Fire, Police and Human Services means cuts must go deeper in other departments, like Parks & Recreation and Neighborhoods, in order to balance the budget. The Mayor’s choices include:
- Closing six neighborhood service centers.
- Laying off six neighborhood district coordinators.
- Trimming the project dollars available from the Neighborhood Matching Fund by $530,000.
- Trimming the Technology Matching Fund by $75,000.
- Continuing the reduced hours at some libraries, repeating the one-week closure before Labor Day instituted this year, and increasing fines at libraries.
- Reducing drop-in gym hours at certain community centers (Green Lake, Alki, Ballard, Queen Anne and Laurelhurst).
- Scaling back Parks and Recreation boating center hours.
- Scaling back overall maintenance of parks.
- Eliminating hundreds of jobs.
On the revenue side the Mayor proposes, among other fee increases:
- An additional bump in the tax you and I pay when we pay to park in a privately operated lot.
- Higher on-street parking meter rates.
- Extension of parking meter hours to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and the introduction of paid parking on downtown streets on Sunday.
- Higher fees for ballfields and tennis courts.
- Increases in water, sewer, drainage and electricity rates.
One of the things keeping us from having to consider even deeper cuts at this point is the tentative agreement with the Coalition of City unions to forego the previously negotiated 2 percent annual cost of living adjustment. Instead, these employees will accept adjustments matching real inflation (0.6 percent for 2011). That change will also apply to non-union employees. Upper level managers will see their wages frozen and some will continue furloughs started last year.
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Council Process Moving Forward
Over the next several weeks the City Council will dissect the Mayor’s proposal with the help of staff and seek to better understand the potential impacts of different choices. We’ll host public hearings (see below) and sift through email, letters and calls to understand where you think the Mayor’s budget meets the needs or falls short of community wishes. We’ll no doubt amend the Mayor’s proposal over the course of November, adopting a final budget by Thanksgiving.
SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL
Committee on the Built Environment
Special discussion with representatives from I-Sustain and participants in the recent Copenhagen-Malmo-Stockholm sustainable development study mission.
South Downtown Public Hearing
For more information, please call us at (206) 684-8802
My goal is to produce a final budget that uses the dollars we have as wisely as possible; that protects basic services and seeks to maintain a quality of service of which Seattle can be proud. Despite our budget troubles, I know we can smartly support programs and staff we all rely on to help keep our neighborhoods and neighbors healthy, safe and connected to each other. I am particularly disturbed by proposed cuts that undermine all the great work neighbors do to improve our city with the help of the Neighborhood Matching Fund and hard-working district coordinators. In addition, if there were ever a time to provide more emergency shelter beds for our vulnerable neighbors living on the streets, now – in the depths of the recession and while support programs are being eliminated at other levels of government – would be the time.
The Council’s public hearings are our opportunities to hear directly from you about how City services affect all our lives. You have the floor and it’s my job to listen and learn. Public testimony matters. Through it I learn about budget issues we’ve over-looked and about impacts we might otherwise misjudge. The City Council’s remaining two public hearings will be:
Wednesday, October 13
The Brockey Center at South Seattle Community College
6000 16th Avenue SW, 98106
5:30 p.m. Public Hearing
Tuesday, October 26
Seattle City Hall
Council Chambers, 2nd floor
600 Fourth Avenue, 98104
5:30 p.m. Public Hearing
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VOTE November 2
The Mayor’s proposed budget was crafted presuming a 2011 General Fund budget of $888 million. However, there are a number of ballot measures that could reduce or increase the amount of projected revenue the City will have available over the next several years. I-1100, I-1105, I-1107, and Proposition 1 will all have General Fund budget implications for the City. Please research each of these carefully and please remember to vote by November 2.
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