On Monday, November 19, the City Council unanimously adopted the 2013 City of Seattle budget, and endorsed the 2014 budget (the City prepares budgets on a two-year cycle, but the legal ‘adoption’ of the budget has to be done annually, so the 2014 budget will be reviewed, amended, and finally adopted in November of 2013.)
This year’s process was relatively smooth, since the economic recovery has begun lifting City revenues, and some difficult cuts made in the last two years helped keep the City on an even financial keel. As I wrote in a previous post, the Mayor’s budget proposed very few cuts and even began restoring a few of the cuts made in the 2011-2012 cycle.
I am very pleased to report that the budget increases funding for the Seattle Public Library by almost 30%. We are able to do this because the voters approved the library levy in August. The levy provides funds to restore hours and collections budget that had to be cut in the 2011-2012 budget, as well as new funds for technology, collections, and building maintenance.
The Council made some major changes in the Mayor’s budget. The Council added a public safety package that funds ten additional police officers and advances the replacement of the North Precinct, which is overcrowded and inefficient. We adopted a transportation package that adds $2 million for street paving and funds the Ballard and Delridge Greenways and a Downtown Cycle Track. The Council also reprioritized funding for transit planning to emphasize bus corridor improvements that can produce immediate benefits while maintaining enough funding to advance rail corridor planning, and funds further work on transit reliability and bike/pedestrian access around SR 520.
We also added $4 million in human services programs over the two year cycle, including $200,000 per year for assistance to victims of domestic violence, $200,000 per year for bulk food purchasing for food banks and meal providers, $150,000 per year for services to home-bound seniors, $600,000 per year for new housing and day centers for the homeless, and $530,000 in 2013 and $1.1 million in 2014 to expand the Nurse Family Partnership to reach all eligible mothers who wish to participate.
The Nurse Family Partnership, initiated by the Council two years ago, is based on a national model for assisting low income mothers in the early months of caring for children. It has been shown to have profound and far-reaching effects in preventing child abuse and other family problems and promoting mental and physical health. Participation in this program has also been demonstrated to lead to long term positive results in increasing children’s academic achievement and reducing their future involvement with the criminal justice system. With many of our programs, we know we are helping people, but are frustrated by how great the need is compared to our resources. In this case, we have mobilized the will, identified and designed an effective program, and found the funds to actually meet the full need for services. It’s a proud day for Seattle.
Recognizing that we must plan ahead to create the kind of Seattle that will work for the future, the Council added funds for land use planning for neighborhoods, industrial areas, and the Design Commission. We also funded the next stage of our emergency preparedness work, including developing incentives for earthquake retrofit for unreinforced masonry buildings and disaster recovery planning.
The Council funded a few major priority projects, including a full evaluation of the youth violence prevention; $500,000 annually to increase City support for the Green Seattle Partnership to restore and maintain our urban forests (I’ll post more details on that soon!), $520,000 to improve the Lake City Community Center, and $100,000 for capital funding for arts facilities.
The Council balanced these adds by cutting some of the Mayor’s proposals that did not seem to have clear justification, such as the proposed Gunshot Locator System, but most of our additions were funded as a result of increasing revenues, especially from the dynamic commercial building sector downtown. It’s a good illustration of how our patient nurturing of a strong economy not only generates jobs and other benefits for those who work or have businesses, but also allows us to provide services to our residential neighborhoods.
Seattle enters the next two years with a fiscally sound and carefully developed blueprint for growing and sharing prosperity. Our 2013-2014 budgets serve the needs of the present while positioning us to advance in the future.