Urban Politics #143: Budget Summary


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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Budget Summary

Last Monday the City Council unanimously passed the City’s 2003-2004 Budget after having to reduce our expenditures by over $60 million. We received the Mayor’s proposed budget on September twenty-third and by state law we have to pass a balanced budget by December first.

Because of the reduction in revenues, all City departments received cuts from their 2002 budget allocation. The Fire and Police Departments received smallest cuts from the Mayor amounting to about 4%. Many citizens contacted the Council asking us to restore some of the public safety services that were cut in these departments. The Council did review these departments are subsequently restored the Fire Engine in the Greenlake neighborhood and retained the Community Service Officers division in the Police Department.

Earlier this year, the Council passed a resolution establishing priorities for the 2003-4 budget: financial sustainability, transportation, public safety, human services, libraries, economic development and neighborhoods were listed as key priorities.

We passed a financial sustainable package that addressed these needs. After restoring key public safety services, I was particularly concerned with meeting the needs of our neighborhoods and those of our poorest citizens. To that end the Council has restored significant amounts of funding for human services from the Mayor’s budget.

The Council restored funds for shelters brought about as part of the I-71 compromise and significant funding was restored for the following programs: Compass Center, DESC/Koerner Scott Women’s shelter, FPA-Family shelter, I.D. Housing-Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Shelter, New Beginnings Domestic Violence shelter, Salvation Army Women’s shelter, University Temple Methodist Young Adult Shelter, and YMCA Domestic Violence Hotel/motel voucher. In addition, the Council restored the full $1.6 million for community health clinics for 2003, and 1/2 that amount for 2004.

On Monday, November 18, the Council also added $500,000 for food programs for 2003, and additional funding for domestic violence groups.

In the area of neighborhood concerns, I was successful in preserving the Neighborhood Matching Fund from any additional cuts. This is a critical funding program that has assisted literally hundreds of communities in working with the City to improve their neighborhood. The Council also restored one of the Neighborhood Service Center Coordinators that was to be eliminated.

There were also two programs that had not received any funding in the Mayor’s Budget that I got restored.

In particular I wanted to keep the only food back in Northeast Seattle running and not close it’s doors. There is now funding to help over 1,500 families that depend on the North Helpline food bank in Lake City.

I also wanted citizens, who were having their cars impounded and auctioned off illegally, to have a chance to have their case heard, so that their property could be returned to them. There is now funding to support the Car Recovery Clinic for another 2 years.

In addition to saving these two programs, I wanted our most cost effective homeless shelter program continue without disruption. There is now funding for the SHARE homeless shelter network to continue to serve our citizens who walk the streets at night looking for a place to rest.

Finally I wanted our community cultural groups and artistic workers to not bear the brunt of our public cuts. The newly organized Seattle Arts Commission was scheduled for a 25% cut. There is now some additional funding to assist them in the new Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs so that Seattle can remain a cultural center for our residents to enjoy and to help our most creative workers seek employment.

I worked with a number of community and citizen groups about how best to balance the needs of Seattle’s citizens. And I also thank the hundreds of individuals who emailed me and wrote letters.

I have not mentioned all of the changes that we did make, for instance the Council restored some of the money to the Library’s book acquisition fund. For more detailed information on the City’s Budget go the following web site: http://www.pan.seattle.gov/html/business/bdgt2003.htm

There are many more public needs to be met, but with our limited resources I believe the City has helped prepare our citizens to meet the challenges that our economy may bring.

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