This morning, Budget Chair Sally Bagshaw published her “revised balancing package,” the near-final version of the budget that the Council will take an initial vote on tomorrow.
Just a quick refresher on how we got here:
- The Mayor submitted her proposed budget to the Council at the end of September;
- The Council crawled through the proposed budget, discussed issues, and proposed changes;
- Bagshaw compiled an “initial balancing package” from a collection of her colleagues’ proposals based upon the ones that were high priority and had consensus support;
- The Council members proposed a second round of changes based upon what didn’t make it into the first balancing package;
- Bagshaw incorporated some of the changes into the revised balancing package released today.
While there are several dozen changes to the budget in the balancing package, most of them are small: tightening of language, small tweaks to dollar amounts, requests for reports from the city, and the like. And since second-round proposals needed to be “self-balancing,” i.e. any increased spending needed to be offset by a cut somewhere else, there weren’t very many proposals for large spending increases, and the ones that were proposed largely weren’t accepted by Bagshaw.
Here are some notable changes that did make it into today’s package:
- An increase of $215,000 in funding (from $600,000 to $815,000) to open a new tiny home village, and a cut of the entire $1.26 million for relocation of the Northlake and Georgetown tiny home villages. In an earlier version, the Georgetown relocation funding was cut, but the Northlake funding remained. But now the city claims that it will have completed the relocation and removal of the Northlake village by December 31, 2019. Along those lines, the Wallyhood neighborhood blog reports that LIHI has notified the Northlake village residents that they need to be out by December 9 so that the camp can be fully removed by the end of the year.
- Funding for Samaritan beacons was cut. Earlier $75,000 had been included to fund the purchase and distribute the beacons to homeless individuals, Samaritan is a private non-profit that created the beacon system as a way to enable charitable giving to homeless individuals; the program requires the individuals to meet with case managers in order to cash in donations. But the programs has raised questions about the impacts that it has, particularly on case management. The $75,000 in city funding has been replaced with a request for HSD to study the impacts that the program has on case management.
- A more detailed proviso on funding for the Navigation Team. An earlier version of the proviso, modeled on the 2019 version, already doled out the budget in quarterly tranches once the city filed a quarterly report with the Council on Nav Team activities. The new version additionally conditions the funding, starting mid-year, on the creation of the new tiny home village so that the Nav Team has a new site to refer individuals to — a major constraint the team is facing today. The tiny home village funding listed above will prioritize referrals from the Nav Team, LEAD, and the Seattle Municipal Court. The proviso on Nav Team funding also now provides more details on what should be included in the quarterly reports.
- $180,000 for a pilot program of mobile waste pump-out services for RV;s. It’s been noted recently that there are no RV pump-out stations within 25 miles of Seattle. The hope is that this program, if successful and scaled-up, will mitigate some of the public health issues with homeless RV residents dumping human waste into storm drains or on the street. The program will start small, expecting only to serve 40 to 64 RVs per month.
- LEAD funding. $3.5 million of additional funding for LEAD is in the revised balancing package. The Mayor’s proposed budget had $2.55 million as Seatle’s contribution to LEAD (it gets funding from King County and other sources too). There has been some controversy in the past month over how successful the LEAD program has been; Senior Deputy Mayor Mike Fong sent a letter to Council members expressing caution over the program’s apparent success rate and throwing cold water on the idea of increasing funding.
However, last week Lisa Daugaard, one of the leaders of the program, sent back a reply clarifying and countering several of his points.
The Council seems to be aiming for a middle ground: it is adding the funding along with a resolution stating its full-throated commitment to fully funding LEAD, but it has also added funding for an analysis of the program to determine how best to measure its success.
- The funding for the Seattle Municipal Court’s “high barrier probation” program has been cut. In an earlier version, the budget contained a proviso that conditioned spending on the new probation program (a recommendation from the Mayor’s “high barrier individuals” task force) upon the delivery of a report on how the program would work. In the latest version, the $170,00 for the probation program has been cut, but the proviso remains in place so that the city can’t shuffle money from another program to implement the program anyway until the report is delivered.
- Adding $300,000 in one-time funding for youth diversion, community building, and education programs. This is in addition to the $1.8 million in the Mayor’s proposed budget. Last week Council member Sawant proposed cutting $522,000 from SPD’s recruitment and retention budget (about a third of it) and putting all the funding into the youth programs. That has now morphed into a reduced proposal for $300,000 in additional spending, with the funds coming from other sources and the SPD budget left undisturbed.
- Adding $300,000 for implementation of the city’s Transportation Equity Agenda.
- A proviso on funding for a “Creative Industry Policy Advisor” in the Office of Economic Development. According to the city, “Under the leadership of its new Director, OED will be implementing an Inclusive Economy Agenda, which centers racial equity in the office’s core functions. Part of this initiative is OED’s Creative Industry Cluster strategy, a new concept still under development that will be led by the Office of Film + Music. This position added in the 2020 Proposed Budget will report to the Creative Industry Director position that has not yet been filled, and is intended to support the implementation of OED’s Creative Industry sector strategy with marketing, stakeholder management, and policy research and development.” The labor organizations representing film and music workers have registered concerns with the OED’s plan, and the Council has responded to its friends in labor with a proviso requiring “a report on how this position will support the diversity of workers in the Creative Industries sector, specifically those in the film and music industries” before OED can spend the money to hire the new position.
- A not-quite-as-large cut to the “P Patch” funding. The Mayor’s Office used $3 million of Sweetened Beverage Tax funding in its bproposed budget to support the city’s “P Patches”. But the Council, in its continuing fight over SBT spending, has pushed back. In the initial balancing package the Council cut $2.5 million; that has now been reduced to $2.25 million, with a commensurate cut of $250,000 to funding for food banks and other foood-access programs.
- More funding for eviction legal defense. The 2019 budget includes $96,000 for eviction legal defense for tenants, and 2020 initial balancing package increased that by $115,000. Last week Council member Sawant proposed cutting funding for a congestion pricing plan by $420,000 and redirecting the money to eviction legal defense; that didn’t make it through, but Bagshaw did find other money to double the increase from $115,000 to $230,000.
Tomorrow the Council begins to wrap up its budget deliberations by assembling the set of changes to the Mayors budget into a final package. Here’s how that works:
- Budget chair Bagshaw will present her revised balancing package as a “consent package” of changes to be voted on together instead of individually. She will then give her colleagues the option to pull individuals items out of the package for separate discussion and vote.
- Everything remaining in the consent package will be approved together in a single vote.
- The items that were pulled out, if any, will be discussed and voted on separately.
- Council members will have one last opportunity to pitch their colleagues on an item that wasn’t included by Bagshaw in the revised balancing package. Any item that receives a majority vote will be included in the budget.
- Between tomorrow and next Monday, the Council’s staff will scramble to cross all the t’s, dot all the i’s, and make sure everything adds up correctly.
- Next Monday morning, the Budget Committee will vote on any last-minute corrections, and will vote the final budget out of committee.
- Next Monday afternoon, the full Council will vote to ratify the 2020 budget and send it to the Mayor for her signature.
In case you are planning to show up in person for the Budget Committee meeting: tomorrow morning, Council member Sawant will be holding a rally for her “People’s Budget” movement, which will then proceed upstairs for public comment at the beginning of the Budget Committee meeting. so expect a lengthy public comment session before the Council gets to work.
Speaking of budget… If you find my reporting valuable, please consider making a financial contribution to support my work. Even just $2 a month helps.