Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide) and the City Council adopted legislation today to create the Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasts (ERFO), moving the work into a more transparent and independent entity that will help level the playing field between both branches of government in the budgeting process.
In Fall 2020, González identified the need for an independent forecasting office. Each year, the City Budget Office safeguards the process that is economic and revenue forecasting while the City crafts its budget. The Council relies on the Executive’s forecasting team to collaborate and provide meaningful data to Councilmembers in a timely manner as both branches develop proposals for what investments should be made with the City’s budget. The system, which relies on goodwill and collaboration between the branches of government, presented challenges in 2020 because the timing and manner in which forecast information was transmitted to the Council and the public emphasized the strategic advantage the executive has in controlling that process and created unnecessary discord between the Council and the Mayor.
As a result, González spearheaded an amendment to the City’s 2021 Adopted Budget that began the process of transferring the forecasting function to a more independent unit that would be jointly overseen by the City Council and the Mayor, ensuring that this critical budgeting work is conducted in a more collaborative manner.
“By creating this new office, redeploying existing staff, and expanding resources for the City’s forecasting process, this new office will achieve two important ends. It will enhance the forecasting process to provide the public with greater access to and understanding of the economic modeling that forms the basis of the City’s Budget. It will also improve the system so that the Mayor and Council are able to operate as co-equal branches of government and help create better trust, collaboration and parity between the Mayor and the City Council,” González said.
Having an independent forecasting office will make Seattle’s budgeting practices more in line with peer government agencies, including the King County Office of Economic and Financial Analysis and the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast staff, entities that that provide independent economic and revenue forecasts and analyses to the King County and Washington State governments.
The legislation passed unanimously on Monday, July 19, 2021.