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Mayor Durkan proposes budget increases for transportation, public safety, and homelessness

Mayor Jenny Durkan unveiled her Proposed Budget for the 2019-2020 biennium today in an announcement at Seattle Fire Station #10. The $5.9 billion budget foro 2019 is the city’s biggest budget to date with increases in many key service areas, but in her announcement the mayor acknowledged that revenues may not continue to grow forever stating,

“[My budget] focuses on delivering the basics. On addressing our affordability crisis. On standing up for what’s right and protecting the most vulnerable. And to seize those opportunities for a more vibrant future. But my budget is also rooted in a difficult reality: After years of significant growth, City spending and revenue is reaching a plateau. So we have to live within our means.”

Important proposed budget increases include:

  • $128 million more for transit and transportation in 2019 for a total of $609 million, to increase Metro bus service by 30 percent and add to bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks;
  • $695 million for public safety, including $39.1 million more in 2019 to cover 40 new police officers and 120 new fire recruits;
  • $2.8 million more in 2019 for homelessness, for a total of $89.5 million across several departments.

Durkan touted her “scrubbing” of the budget to find $49 million in savings to help fund increases in her priority funding areas. Some of the cuts include reducing the size of the city vehicle fleet, removing approximately 150 vacant positions, and reducing discretionary spending across all departments including travel and consultant contracts.

Despite the scrubbing, the mayor’s budget also acknowledged that city general revenue is based on historically volatile sales and property tax sources. The Revenue Forecast predicts a slowing of growth both in sales tax and property tax revenue based both on a slow down in employment and in new construction and home sales.

This could result in reduced revenue moving forward. To plan for this contingency, the mayor’s proposal includes protecting upwards of $60 million by 2020 in both the City’s rainy-day fund and emergency sub-fund.

Finally, the mayor used the announcement to lobby voters to continue to fund K-12 and college educational initiatives. She urged support for the Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise plan set for the ballot in November, which includes a  new property tax levy designed to replace two smaller levies that are set to expire.

Durkan finished the announcement with a rallying cry for civic engagement. She implored,

“Government is a vehicle for good. But it is not the only place where we will find solutions to our challenges. It will take everyone –  businesses, philanthropists, neighborhoods, people of faith, and community organizations – working as full partners with the City government. It will take our state, counties, and our region as full partners, too. Now is time to get to work, to on delivering this budget, and I look forward to working with you City Council to cement this budget as a guide for our work in the coming year.”

The Seattle City Council will now review the budget both in committee and as a whole between now and November. There are opportunities for public comment scheduled for 5:30 pm on October 4th and October 23rd, with a full council vote on the adoption of the final budget scheduled for November 19th at 2:00 pm.