Budget Bingo

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I was sitting in a budget meeting the other day listening to the burble of acronyms cross my colleague’s lips—BIPs, BUGs, and SLIs—and I remembered how alienating that alphabet soup was to me the first time I plunged into it. So I thought I’d write up a little guide to the ABCs of City of Seattle budget-making, just in case any of you are watching all of this on the Seattle Channel.  Possibly the foundation for a game of Budget Bingo?

Seattle’s actual budget document is the size of a large city phone book (by the way, you can unsubscribe to phone books here)—so this isn’t meant to be a complete list of acronyms. It’s just the ones that struck me as funny or impenetrable, or both, today.

(If you want a thorough guide to the Budget process, take a look at this excellent citizen’s guide created by my colleague Jean Godden). Otherwise, enjoy!

BIPs       In the spring of each year, the legislative department presents ideas for how to change the budget—these days, usually cuts to make forecasted revenues, but in theory, proposed spending increases, too—to the City Budget Office (CBO) in Budget Issue Papers (BIPs).  From July to September, the mayor reviews these BIPS, reconciles them with revised revenue estimates, and submits a balanced budget to the council by the end of September.

BUGs     Our BUGs aren’t glitches in the system, they’re Budget Guidance Statements, which we in the legislative department use to ask the Mayor to incorporate a specific policy interest into his proposed budget.  You can see the BUGs presented at each budget meeting—they are posted along with the meeting agendas by date. (If a BUG was discussed by the Budget Committee on more than one occasion, it appears on the agenda for each meeting at which it was discussed. For the most current version of a BUG, look for the last agenda when the BUG was presented to the Budget Committee.)

CDBG    Not actually a now-defunct punk club in New York City, the CDBG is a Community Development Block Grant, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development annual grant to Seattle and other local governments to support economic development projects, low-income housing, and services in low-income neighborhoods.

CIP         Unlike BIPS and BUGs, which are spoken as words of their own, the CIP is pronounced with each letter spoken, “See eye pee.” It stands for Capital Improvement Program. The mayor proposes a balanced budget and a six-year Capital Improvement Program every year. The CIP is a separate document from the budget, and it explains all the projects, funding sources, and costs for certain capital purposes, such as street improvements, building construction, and some kinds of facility maintenance. Many of these are multi-year project that require funding beyond the one-year period of the annual budget.

NMF      Neighborhood Matching Subfund. A fund supporting partnerships between the City and neighborhood associations to produce neighborhood-initiated planning, organizing, and improvement projects. The City provides a cash match to the community’s contribution of volunteer labor, materials, professional services, or cash. The NMF is administered by the Department of Neighborhoods (DON).

SLIs        Sounds like “sly,” but they’re really all very up front. SLIs are Statements of Legislative Intent, and we use them for various purposes, including to:

  • Give guidance for City policy, such as describing how a program is to operate;
  • Explain an action, such as providing a rationale for a budget cut;
  • Call for additional study, such as requesting a report analyzing the effectiveness of a new program; or
  • Create a work program for a department and/or the Council, such as calling for a study of a new concept or approach.

You can see the SLIs presented at each budget meeting—they are posted along with the meeting agendas by date.

Green sheets. The Council uses green sheets—printed on actual green-colored paper—to modify the Mayor’s proposed budget, for example, making a cut to the Department of Parks and Recreation.  A green sheet might recommend adoption of a resolution or passing of a bill for any of the following reasons:

  • Increase or decrease expenditures for specific programs or services;
  • Increase or decrease staff positions;
  • Add or delete a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) project;
  • Increase or decrease funding for a CIP project;
  • Amend (if necessary), and vote on, budget legislation; or
  • Impose a budget proviso on an appropriation;
  • Increase or decrease revenues.

You can see the Green Sheets presented at each budget meeting – they are posted along with the meeting agendas by date.

Find more budget information here:

Attend the final public hearing on Wednesday, October 26:

5:00 p.m. Sign-in

5:30 p.m. Public hearing starts

Seattle City Hall

Council Chambers, 2nd floor

600 Fourth Avenue, 98104

If you can’t make the hearing, but have budget thoughts you want to share, call my office at 206 684 8801, or email me at Sally.Bagshaw@seattle.gov.

You can watch the budget process here: