What’s up for discussion at tomorrow’s budget meeting

Tomorrow is the penultimate budget discussion for this year’s budget deliberation cycle, in which the Council members will try to convince Budget Chair Sally Bagshaw to include their final round of proposed changes in her revised “balancing package.” Here’s a look at what’s still up for discussion.

Many of the items are rehashes of Council members’ earlier proposals that didn’t make it into Bagshaw’s “initial balancing package.” This time, any proposals must be “self-balancing,” meaning that any new expenditures must be offset with additional revenues or an equal cut somewhere else in the budget. The Council is required to pass a balanced budget; Bagshaw’s initial package is balanced, and the “self-balancing” requirement on any additional changes ensures that the proposed budget remains balanced all the way through to the final adoption.

There are 44 items on the agenda for tomorrow, but only 12 of them involve new allocations and/or cuts. The rest are a combination of:

  • provisos that restrict the use of already-budgeted funds for a specific purpose;
  • provisos that prevent the expenditure of certain funds until some condition is met (usually involving a report to the Council);
  • Statements of Legislative Intent (SLIs) requesting that the executive branch take some action (again, often studying an issue and delivering a report).

Here are the twelve substantive changes to the budget up for consideration:

  • Two proposals to cut the $75,000 allocated for implementing Samaritan’s “beacon” electronic wallet program for homeless people. Council member Herbold proposes using the funds to pay for a “navigator” to advise students enrolled in a human services certificate program. Council member Gonzalez instead proposes using it to create a rental assistance pilot program.
  • Council member Sawant proposes to cut $522,000 from SPD’s recruitment and retention initiatives to pay for youth diversion programs.
  • Sawant is resubmitting her proposal to cut funding for the Navigation Team and for removing the Northlake tiny home village, and redirect the $8.6 million to create 14 additional tiny home villages.
  • Sawant proposes to cut $186,000 from SPD’s recruitment and retention initiatives to pay for legal support for sexual violence survivors.
  • Council member O’Brien proposes $67,000 from the Office of Housing’s Operating Fund to pay for homebuyer counseling.
  • Council member Mosqueda proposes cutting $100,000 from the Seattle Municipal Court’s “high barrier probation” pilot program and combining it with another $100,000 from a reserve fund in order to allocate $200,000 for the Office of Labor Standards’ Community Outreach and Education Fund.
  • Herbold proposes reducing the amount of Sweetened Beverage Tax revenues budgeted for the “P Patch” program from $3 million to $725,000, and redirecting the funds to a collection of other programs.
  • Sawant proposes cutting funding for SPD’s hiring incentive program by $600,000 to fund renter organizing and outreach.
  • Sawant also proposes cutting SDOT’s funding for outreach related to a potential congestion pricing program by $420,000 to fund eviction legal defense.
  • O’Brien proposes redirecting $300,000 of TNC tax revenue that was being held in reserve to support implementation of the Transportation Equity Agenda.
  • Herbold proposes cutting $179,000 from two Seattle Public Utilities accounts (a reserve account, and the pre-capital planning account) and directing the funds to a pilot program to offer mobile pump-out services to RV residents on Seattle’s streets.

Sawant’s attempts to strip funding from SPD and the Navigation Team, while popular with her base, are unlikely to go anywhere; most of them are rehashes of her earlier proposals that didn’t attract significant support from her colleagues. Nevertheless, Sawant isn’t giving up: she is holding a “People’s Budget Rally” before tomorrow’s Budget Committee meeting, and many of her supporters will sign up to advocate for her proposals during the public comment session. Some of the Council members’ other proposals, however, should at least get interesting discussion; that includes the P Patch funding, the “high barrier probation” program, the Samaritan “beacon” program (which had several supporters in this afternoon’s public comment session), and redirecting more of the TNC tax revenues.

Many of the remaining provisos and SLIs will probably go through, given that they are “free” — they will take up a bunch of the executive branch’s time, but they don’t need budget allocations. Some proposals may get further discussion, however, including a pair related to the Office of Economic Development’s efforts to reorganize the city’s Film Office into a “Creative Industry” group and hire a new Director and a Policy Advisor.

After tomorrow’s discussion, Bagshaw will have further one-on-one discussions with her colleagues and decide which proposals to incorporate into her “revised balancing package,” which she will publish next Monday. The following day, the Budget Committee will meet to vote on each individual change to the Mayor’s proposed budget, and Council members who didn’t get their proposals into the balancing package will have one last shot to get the other Council members to vote to incorporate them into the budget. Finally, Monday the 25th the Budget Committee meets in the morning to make any last-minute tweaks and to vote the budget out of committee, and in the afternoon the full Council votes to approve the budget.

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