This morning, the Council put its finishing touches on the 2018 city budget, and this afternoon it became law.
There are only a handful of changes from last week’s hastily-reworked budget package. The biggest one is that the Council restored almost $700,000 of the million dollars it cut from the Mayor’s budget. Regardless, some Council members still felt the need to state for the record that the move to cut the Mayor’s budget was justified, well within past precedent, and not at all intended to reflect political animosity towards Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan. Most of the restored funding came from cuts to the Department of Construction and Inspections, which raises a concern that it might slow down approval of new building permits — and thus slow the creation of new housing.
Council member Gonzalez also made a last-minute amendment to fund a manager for the highly-acclaimed Court Resource Center housed in Seattle Municipal Court. To do so, she de-funded a $250,000 recarpeting of the City Council and staff offices on the second floor of City Hall.
The ordinance to establish a “results-based accountability” system for the Human Services Department’s contracts with service providers also got a minor update. The primary remaining concern with the bill, which had some major changes from Mayor Burgess’ original draft, was that the measures chosen to evaluate performance might not recognize the reality of delivering services in a challenging environment, leading potentially to providers choosing to focus their services only on the easiest-to-serve members of the community in order to ensure their performance appeared to be high. This was addressed by adding language to require that HSD use “culturally responsive research” to set performance criteria. For many of the same reasons, the requirement to use “performance pay” in contracts was made optional. Despite these changes, Council member Sawant still chose to vote “no” on the RBA program, stating that the Council should be rejecting the framework altogether rather than trying to “make a bad process less bad.”
In the end, the budget passed by an 8-1 vote, with Sawant making her annual protest “no” vote on what she sees as another “business as usual” budget that doesn’t address the needs of the people. It now goes to May Burgess to sign, in one of his final acts as Mayor before Jenny Durkan is sworn in next week. Burgess issued a press release this afternoon signaling his approval of the final budget.
Here’s a complete list of the changes the Council made to the Mayor’s proposed 2018 budget.