Mayor Ed Murray gave his big annual budget speech this afternoon. Now that Murray's proposed city budget—all $5.1 billion and 761 pages—is out, I'll be digging into more of the details over coming days, as will the city council. But for now, here are the things you need to know about what the mayor put forward. (Remember, everything is subject to amendments by the city council between now and their budget vote in late November.)
Yes, the city is raking in more money thanks to all the new construction and growth. A quarter of the city's sales tax revenue now comes from new construction—the highest it's ever been. That means the city has more money to spend, and it will: this budget spends 4.5 percent more than last year. But this boom won't last forever, so much of the new spending is on one-time expenses, like helping Pronto bike share expand and add electric bikes or giving money to Town Hall and the Nordic Heritage Museum for building projects. In the spirit of recognizing that the boom will someday end, Murray's budget sets aside more than $100 million in reserves.
The Seattle Police Department will buy body cameras for every patrol officer. Murray's budget includes $1.8 million to buy the cameras and software, and the feds are kicking in $600,000. The city still has to wrangle with the privacy concerns and other issues around developing body camera policy, so the timeline on this is unclear.
SPD will hire 30 new officers in 2016. This is part of Murray's goal to hire 100 new officers.
The Seattle Fire Department will hire 35 new firefighters in 2016. Like the police department, the fire department is currently low on staff and using a lot of overtime, according to the mayor's office.
Crime is down citywide, according to Murray, but reports of shots fired are up. The city will spend $275,000 on a gun violence prevention program that Harborview and the University of Washington are working on. This is the same program Council President Tim Burgess wanted to fund through his recently passed guns and ammo tax. That tax is now facing a legal challenge. Murray's showing an intent to fund the program regardless of what happens to that tax.
The seawall rebuild will cost $71 million more than originally budgeted. I've explained how that'll be funded over here.
The Office of Labor Standards will get two new staffers and $200,000 in additional funding. That office is responsible for educating businesses and employees about the city's labor laws, including the new minimum wage. It also enforces those laws. So, in other words, making sure it's not understaffed and underfunded is a big deal. The $200,000 will fund outreach, which is important because enforcement of labor laws is often complaint based, so employees have to know what they're owed in order to know they should complain if they're getting cheated by their bosses.
Pronto bike share wants to expand to other parts of the city and add electric bikes. The city will kick in $5 million to try to help Pronto get a $10 million federal grant that requires a match. Seattle Bike Blog has more about Pronto's plans.
Thirty-six new people will be hired to make sure construction projects are dealing with their impacts on car, bike, and pedestrian traffic. The money to hire those new employees will come from increasing the fees the city charges on projects that block the street or sidewalk.
Three new staffers will focus on the housing affordability recommendations that came out of the city's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee, or HALA. One of those new hires will focus on researching and lobbying connected to HALA recommendations that would require changes in state law to implement.
The 2016 budget includes $1.5 million more than expected in funding for homeless services. Last year, the mayor created a budget for both 2015 and 2016. This year, in fine-tuning the 2016 budget, he's spending $1.5 million more on homelessness than was anticipated in that first budget, according to his budget staff. That chunk of the budget will expand hours at nighttime shelters, fund a new 100-bed shelter in lower Queen Anne, distribute $1.5 million to community health clinics, and set aside $240,000 for services at the three new encampments the city plans allow on public land. (There is no funding in the budget for the tent encampments already operating on non-city land. The city council set aside money for those camps last year and may do the same this year.)
In this part of his speech, Murray called out NIMBYs who are afraid of having homeless encampments or shelters in their neighborhoods, which was pretty great. "We must not conflate criminal behavior with those who are desperately homeless," Murray said.
The mayor isn't proposing any increase in funding for Career Bridge. Pamela Banks, a council candidate and president of the Urban League, has called on the city to double funding for that program, which connects men of color to services and jobs.
He is adding $650,000 in new funding for the Youth Employment Initiative. That program connects young people to jobs with local companies and nonprofits.
The budget funds three new immigrant-focused programs: one to help immigrants get citizenship, one to increase voting in immigrant communities, and one to pair immigrant men with mentors at SPD.
There's no sign of on-site childcare at City Hall this year. Council Member Jean Godden supports this idea as part of her work on gender pay equity, but the mayor's budget staff says her request came in too late to be feasible in this budget.
Four cultural facilities will get city cash. The Nordic Heritage Museum, Town Hall, and the Burke Museum will each get $500,000 for building improvements. The Opera will get $200,000, which the mayor's office says is part of a "$5 million long-term commitment."
In his speech, Murray said his budget "sets us on a path to build a sustainable city... Building a sustainable city means managing growth, reducing poverty, and creating an enduring economy."
In a response immediately after Murray's speech, Council Member Kshama Sawant told reporters Murray's is "mostly another business-as-usual budget" that doesn't do enough to address affordable housing or find new sources of revenue. Sawant wants a larger linkage fee (charged on developers and spent to build affordable housing), a return of the employee head tax, and a city income tax.
Among her planned amendments to the mayor's budget, Sawant said she will seek to expand the jail diversion program LEAD, increase funding for Career Bridge, and increase in the city's paid parental leave program from four weeks to 12 weeks of paid time off for city employees. Sawant also said the budget should spend more on homelessness programs, but couldn't provide a specific amount that she believes would be enough. She plans to hold a "people's budget" town hall meeting, like she did last year, on October 27 at City Hall.