What to watch for on budget proposals day 2 (Thursday)

The Council will be discussing another 60 proposals for modifying the Mayor’s proposed budget tomorrow. Here’s what’s up for consideration that may generate some discussion.

  1.  How to spend the Mercer Megablock windfall: housing edition. The Mayor’s budget directs some of the Mercer Megablock sale proceeds to an ADU loan program, and another big slice to a “strategic investment fund” to acquire land for future affordable housing projects. Several proposals are on the table to change that. Council member Mosqueda would like to redirect $15 million from those two programs to the Office of Housing’s annual “Notice of Funding Availability” (NOFA) so as to increase its grantmaking capacity. Gonzalez would move $3.5 million from the ADU loan program to the NOFA, and add a proviso to the ADU loan program requiring a Racial Equity Toolkit analysis on the program before it can go forward. O’Brien would add provisos to the entire $41.7 strategic investment fund, requiring the Office of Housing to submit a spending and implementation plan to the Council, to spell out the criteria for investments, and to require community participation in defining the program. Sawant, however, went all-in: she proposes a $500 million bond issuance to build affordable housing, using $22.5 million of Mercer Megablock proceeds to pay the debt service in 2020 (a partial year). However, she doesn’t explain how to pay for the $15 million of debt issuance costs,  or where the money will come from to pay the debt service for the remaining 19 years — $44.9 million per year.
  2. Adding public restrooms, showers, and hygiene services for the city’s homeless population. Council member Bagshaw proposes $244,000 to add additional shower services at two community centers and make repairs to showers at several other community centers serving the homeless; and Council member Herbold proposes $818,000 to open seven additional restrooms during the fall and winter and increase cleanings at those and other restrooms. 91 of the Parks Department’s 131 restrooms are closed during the fall and winter.
  3. Building out a childcare facility in City Hall. Council member Mosqueda has proposed spending $4.6 million to build out a four-classroom child care center in City Hall. As I wrote before, the city completed a study of the options for a childcare facility; they were all prohibitively expensive, and the four-classroom option was the worst of the lot.
  4. How to spend the TNC tax revenues. There are competing views among the Council members on how the revenues from the TNC tax should be spent. The Mayor’s proposal dedicated a large share in the early years to fill the funding gap for the Center City Connector streetcar project. Council member Herbold, has proposed cutting that allocation; in fact she proposes changing the TNC tax legislation to remove the streetcar for the list of eligible uses for the tax proceeds, and replace it with a new one: contributing to funding Sound Transit’s light rail extensions to Ballard and West Seattle. Council President Harrell, on the other hand would like to proviso $1 million of the proceeds per year to dedicate to a new transportation assistance voucher program. He is also requesting that the city complete a feasibility study on such a voucher program.
  5. Tweaks to the TNC driver protections and minimum compensation. There are several proposals for changes to the minimum compensation standard, including adding to the list of topics to be studied in advance of setting the compensation standard; clarifying when panel arbitration proceedings are voluntary; and clarifying aspects of the Driver Resolution Center.
  6.  Provisos on the “high barrier” pilot programs.  The Mayor’s task force on “prolific offenders” recommended several new programs, and she included some of them in her budget. But in last week’s budget issue discussions, the Council members expressed skepticism about the programs, largely because there were scant details on hw the programs would be implemented. The Council members are proposing attaching provisos to three of them, wherein the city must submit an implementation plan to the Council before spending the allocated funds.
  7. Probation. Council member Gonzalez wants to request that the City Auditor review the Seattle Municipal Court’s probation program. And she is proposing cutting the $170,000 for a “high barrier” probation pilot program and prohibiting any spending on such a program until the auditor’s report is complete. It’s worth noting, however, that there aren’t any proposals to cut funding for the existing probation system.
  8.  Sex industry workers diversion program. Council member Gonzalez proposes allocating $124,000 to start to reconstitute the sex workers’ diversion program. It was discontinued at the end of 2018 due to a decrease in prostitution arrests, but SPD is reporting that arrests have increased this year. In 2018, the program budget was $955,000.
  9. Analyzing regional employment dependent on fossil fuels. Council member O’Brien is requesting that the Office of Economic Development study which regional jobs are likely to be impacted by a move away from fossil fuels, and how a “just transition” can be created for the impacted workers.
  10. How to support workers during a recession. Council member Pacheco is requesting that the Office of Economic Development prepare a report on strategies to support workers when the region goes into recession.

Thanks for reading to the end!  If you find my reporting valuable, please consider making a financial contribution to support my work. Even just $1 a month helps.