Bagshaw unveils budget balancing package

This morning Budget Chair Sally Bagshaw published her initial balancing package, incorporating a portfolio of self-balancing changes to the Mayor’s proposed budget based on last week’s proposals by Council members that received consensus support.

Last’s night’s election results show that Initiative 976 will likely pass; it will blow a $35 million hole in the city budget that will need to get addressed in the next three weeks, making the initial balancing package very much a work in progress. That said, anything that didn’t make it in at this point is very unlikely to find its way in later as the Council struggles to find tens of millions of dollars.

With that context, here’s what made the cut so far.

  • Funding to open three additional tiny home villages. Much of the funding comes from cutting the appropriation for relocating the existing Georgetown tiny-home village; in fact, the Council members are attaching a proviso that prohibits any funds from being used to shut down or relocate the Georgetown village — despite the fact that its current permit expires in March. In addition, the Council members specify that the new tiny home villages are to be used exclusively for referrals from the Navigation Team, the LEAD program, and Seattle Municipal Court.
  • $1.5 million for a new youth homeless shelter, a portion of the funds required to find a new home for the ROOTS shelter.
  •  $125,000 of 2019 underspend that was intended to be used for a safe RV parking pilot program will be re-purposed for an overnight-only safe parking lot.
  • The Navigation Team lives on. But its funding will continue to be contingent upon filing quarterly reports with the Council.
  •  A haircut on the startup funding for the regional governance structure for homelessness response. The new expectation is that the new entity will start on April 1, so $345,000 of the startup funds supplied by the city will be redirected to other uses.
  •  $1.8 million for a health clinic to be embedded in a shelter.
  • $75,000 to fund a somewhat controversial “smart wallet” beacon system for homeless people that was created by Samaritan to allow for easier charitable contributions to help the homeless.
  •  Raiding the Mercer Megablock funding. The Council members made several large-scale changes to the Mayor’s proposal for how to spend the windfall proceeds from the Mercer Megablock sale. They took $11.7 million from the Strategic Investment Fund, $3.5 million from the ADU program, and $3 million from the home ownership pilot program and redirected the majority to the Office of Housing for grants to affordable housing projects.  They also added a proviso to the Strategic Investment Fund, which would purchase land for future affordable housing projects, requiring a spending plan before any of the remaining dollars can be spent on acquisitions. And they took $2 million more that was supposed to backfill the revenue shortfall in the commercial parking tax and redirected it toward expanding implementation of the Bicycle Master Plan. In the short term, the commercial parking tax shortfall will be covered by an existing fund balance, but that surplus is expected to be spent down by 2023 at the latest.
  • The Mayor’s trimmed-down ADU loan also gets a proviso requiring a Racial Equity Toolkit analysis of the program and a formal amendment to the city’s housing funding policies.
  • $1.28 million for mobile bathroom facilities to serve the homeless population.
  • $3.5 million of additional funding for the LEAD program. If as expected LEAD can find an additional $1 million from private sources, the program will be fully funded next year meet the predicted demand.
  •  Provisos on the Mayor’s “high barrier” offender pilot programs. That includes the case conferencing pilot, the rapid reentry connector, and high-barrier probation. The probations would require reports back to the Council on implementation plans.
  • $124,000 for a sex industry workers diversion program, and another $140,000 for HSD to implement a harm-reduction outreach program for street-based sex workers and drug users.
  • The Center City Streetcar funding survived, but SDOT will be required to provide a financial plan for the operation of the line.
  • Raiding the TNC tax revenues. The Council is redirecting $3.05 million of TNC tax revenues that was held in reserve toward several earmarked transportation projects around the city: Fortson Square, Market to MOHAI, a public life study of Capitol Hill, West Marginal Way improvements, redesign of Thomas Street, and Home Zone projects.
  •  $2.14 million held as a “child care reserve” has been cut for other uses.
  •  The $3 million of Sweetened Beverage Tax revenues allocated for P-Patches has been cut down to $500,000, with a request the the city report on other ways to fund the P-Patches (such as the Metropolitan Parks District when it comes up for renewal next year).
  • $500,00 for a temporary fire station while Station 31 is torn down and replaced.
  • $747,000 set aside for Waterfront LID payments has been cut. The cut is due in part to the reduced size of the LID; and second because two of thecity’s properties within the LID area have been sold off.
  • $270,000 in the Law Department’s budget was cut; it originated with salary savings in the 2019 budget, but the Mayor restored it inthe 2020 budget.
  • $45,000 for ongoing funding for Indigenous People’s Day, Human Rights Day, and MLK Jr. Unity Day celebrations.
  •  Some payroll savings by delaying the hiring of a handful of positions in various departments to later in 2020.
  •  $100,000 was cut from the Office of Economic Development for business recruitment and retention consultant services. The Council cut the funding last year, but OED signed a contract for the consultant services anyway. The Council is once again cutting the funding for the consultant.
  • A proviso on $500,000 in the Office of Planning and Community Development’s budget, to ensure that the Environmental Impact Statement completed for next year’s update to the Comprehensive Plan willl study changes to add denser housing options in sigle-family residential zones, as well as ways to minimize displacement of low-income households.
  • Two positions in the HR Department were cut; one of three positions working on anti-harassment/anti-discrimination trianings; and a person to implement the City Leadership Academy.
  • $600,000 to augment one of SFD’s new recruit classes, to speed up hiring.
  • A hiring incentive program in SPD that pays the $50 recruit testing fee was cut from $75,000 to $5,000. In addition, the staffing for SPD’s recruitment and retention initiative was cut by 50%, and SPD’s sergeant training program budget was cut by 1/3 and spread over two years.
  • $244,000 was added to provide additional shower services at several community centers and renovate some existing shower facilities.

Some of the things that didn’t make the cut include:

  • studying municipal broadband suing the city’s water pipes as conduits.
  • renegotiating the city’s solid-waste contracts to move to every-other-week collection (though don’t expect Council member Herbold to give up on this idea).
  • building out a childcare center in City Hall.
  • a $600,000 study on the value of human services work.
  •  a proposed study on a new treatment program for meth addiction.
  • Changes to the Navigation Team. Neither a proposal to gut it, nor a proposal to expand it, survived.
  • A proposal by Council member Sawant to plan to make all transit in Seattle free.
  •  major cuts to SPD hiring and emphasis patrols. SPD officer staffing is unchanged, and the emphasis patrol funding remains in the budget.

The initial balancing package is far from the final word on the 2020 budget, even without the passage of I-976; the Council will hold one more discussion next week in which Council members will have one more chance to convince their colleagues to support their budget change proposals that weren’t included in the balancing package; however, from this point on any proposed changes must be “self-balancing” in that they must also identfy additional revenues or cost savings to fully offset any additional spending.

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