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November 12, 2010
By City Councilmember Nick Licata
The City Council’s Budget Committee voted today to pass the 2011 City budget, and endorse a 2012 budget. The Full City Council will vote on Monday. The Budget Committee consists of all nine Councilmembers, so I expect the budget to pass.
This year the City’s economy was still deep in recession and as a result we had to reduce this year’s $900 million budget by $15 million before the year was over. In addition, we faced a $67 million budget shortfall for 2011. And just last week we received additional bad news: with the passage of State Initiative 1107 and the continued decline in property sales we had to take another $5.8 million dollar reduction from the Mayor’s proposed 2011-2 budget.
With this constant shrinking of revenue the City has been faced with making ongoing cuts to our budget. This has resulted in both layoffs of employees and proposed reductions in services, like public safety and human services, and maintenance of our facilities, like parks and streets.
THE MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND INDUSTRY (MOHAI) AND THE CITY BUDGET
While the City was facing some difficult decisions on how to soften the blow of these reductions to our budget, in September I worked with MOHAI to restructure when $8.5 million flows from the State through the City to MOHAI. The funds are partial compensation for the State’s purchase of MOHAI’s building and the land it occupies in McCurdy Park. The State needs to occupy the park to replace the State Route 520 floating bridge. The Mayor’s proposed budget released on September 27 did not include this arrangement.
My intention in capturing the flow-through of that $8.5 million was to see the majority of it used to soften cuts in human services and other critical services during one of the City’s most challenging budget cycles (see UP 300: http://licata.seattle.gov/2010/09/27/urban-politics-300-mohai-the-city-budget/). These are one-time funds and therefore should be used for either one-time projects or to provide temporary relief in services that may need to be cut in the future.
As a result of the Council accepting this new arrangement, these MOHAI funds paid for about 80% of what the Council restored or added to the Mayor’s proposed budget in projects and services that were to be cut or not funded. The key additions are in human services, neighborhoods, libraries, and public safety.
By leveraging MOHAI compensation funds, we can keep people afloat during some of the most difficult economic times we’ve experienced, a time when the margin for just getting by keeps getting narrower.
PRIORITY ITEMS IN THE 2011-2011 BUDGET
Early in the budget process I circulated a list of projects and services among Councilmembers that I hoped MOHAI funds could support. The response was very positive since we all shared the same object of maintaining services and saving projects critical for our residents and businesses. Below is what we were able to accomplish with these MOHAI funds.
$100,000 for unanticipated cost increases for homeless shelter providers
$150,000 for 6 full months of winter shelter and services, increased from only 62 days when weather is deemed to be “severe weather” – this shelter has been provided in City Hall and may be continued to be.
$297,000 funding for low income batterer’s intervention programs that reduce recidivism to 6% – batters who never went to batterers’ intervention programs have a recidivism rate of 30.5%.
$15,000 domestic violence training for shelter/housing providers
$72,000 for International District program providing limited English-speaking Chinese elders with social, physical and recreational activities
$60,000 for childcare referral services providing referrals for families searching for child care and information about the programs identified to meet their needs.
$37,000 for policy advocacy programs that organize community advocates to secure local, regional, state and federal funding to maintain support and strengthen human services for Seattle’s low-income and vulnerable residents – with the State Legislature facing another huge budget cut this coming session, the City will need to work closely with groups who are working to save services provided to our most vulnerable residents.
$36,000 for the International District foot patrol to assist people requiring emergency assistance and to assist City emergency and public safety personnel with translation services
$30,000 for a capacity building program that helps small non-profit agencies to help them become more self-sufficient and sustainable over time.
$20,000 for food coalitions providing coordination services for food and meal providers
$257,000 Master Home Environmentalist program aimed at reducing health care costs by identifying and helping to eliminate environmental hazards the home.
Public Safety, Justice, and Civil Rights
$84,000 for Seattle Neighborhood Group programs providing community outreach and crime prevention workshops.
$133,000 Department of Corrections crew that picks up litter, mows grass and trims brush on open spaces in Southeast Seattle, Beacon Hill, Georgetown and South Park
$87,000 Office of Professional Accountability Auditor – this office had been scaled back under the Mayor’s budget. With the number of recent police incidents involving questionable police tactics in dealing with civilians, it is most critical that we keep this office fully functioning.
$400,000 to bring defense of police action cases into the Law Department and balance the Law Department budget – this can be a real money saver since our City Attorney’s work is excellent and costs a fraction of what our contract pays for outside attorneys.
$292,000 for three crime victim advocates that tend to the medical, emotional and financial needs of crime victims and witnesses while keeping them apprised of the status of investigations and assisting officers and prosecutors in strengthening criminal cases.
$230,000 Office of Civil Rights to restore support to the following commissions: the Human Rights; Women’s; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender; and People with Disabilities Commissions.
$70,000 Office of Civil Rights outreach to support interpretation/translation
$600,000 for the Neighborhood Matching fund, restoring 57% of the reduction proposed for 2011 ($524,000) and 61% of the reduction proposed for 2012 ($488,000).
$600,000 for Neighborhood District Coordinators, the face of City government to people in our neighborhoods
$26,000 West Seattle payment center – that allows residents to pay for their utility bills on site and explains services available to them
$104,000 Community Centers to relocate some department offices and to double the number of drop-in hours proposed by the Mayor’s budget.
$227,000 Historic Preservation funding supporting the review of landmark nominations, staffing the Landmark Preservation Board’s and their review of Certificates of Approval for alterations to existing landmarks, reviewing permit applications pursuant to the SEPA historic preservation policies, and updating the Historic Resources Survey & Inventory database.
$300,000 Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs for funding community cultural facility one time capital needs
$400,000 Library funding for maintenance and capital improvements; the Library took a big cut in funding but managed to maintain hours by reorganizing-this will mitigate the long-term impact of cuts and enhance long-term sustainability
$50,000 Wing Luke Museum – one time contribution – continues programs that benefit underserved populations, and educational programming
Council Members & Mayor’s Email Addresses
Citizens are directed to the following website to complete a form to send an email to the Mayor’s Office. http://www.cityofseattle.net/mayor/citizen_response.htm