Seattle Budget Balancing Package
Budget Chair Mosqueda released Seattle’s 2022 budget balancing package yesterday. This package is a revision that is balanced to the latest revenue forecast and adjusts the Mayor’s proposed budget to reflect the Council’s spending priorities. This morning the Council met for almost four hours to review what is included in this new budget proposal.
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s special Select Budget Committee meeting. Today there is a presentation on the Budget Chair’s Balancing Package for the 2022 budget.
This evening the Council is holding the second public hearing on the budget, which begins at 5:30pm. Sign-ups begin at 3:30pm. For those planning to comment today, or who wish to contact their CMs via phone or email with their thoughts, here is a summary of changes in public safety spending in this new budget.
First, the budget cuts $10.8m from SPD’s budget. This would lead to SPD’s overall budget being reduced, albeit by a relatively small amount, for the second year in a row. The cuts are coming from the following:
- Hiring incentive program for new officers and lateral hires
- Cutting funding for two technology projects (although funding for one part of one of these projects is being provided elsewhere, $216k to analyze the NICJR report on 911 calls)
- a new squad of CSOs proposed by Mayor Durkan (the main issues at play here are that the currently funded CSO positions are still being filled and there is disagreement as to where the CSOs should be housed, SPD or the CSCC)
- assuming greater salary savings because of attrition in 2022, including that due to 80 officers who have asked for accommodation from the vaccine mandate, which will probably lead to some number of those officers being let go (the estimate in this case is 12 officers let go)
- other salary and efficiency savings as outlined by CM Herbold in her amendment two weeks ago
Before we get too hysterical about further cuts to SPD, it’s important to remember that the number of officers responding to 911 calls has thus far remained consistent. This means the increased 911 call response times cannot be attributed to lower staffing at SPD, but is because of some combination of other causes. This balancing package fully funds SPD’s proposed hiring plan in 2022. What it doesn’t do is fully fund SPD’s proposed staffing plan, as the Council is assuming more attrition than SPD is. Expect to hear a lot of vitriol around this distinction. Ultimately the attrition number for 2022 is just a guess, and not a very historically accurate one at that. If the guess is too low, the Council can proviso the money and try to reclaim it later. If the guess is too high, SPD can come to the Council and ask for additional funds.
The funds for participatory budgeting and the Equitable Communities Initiative have been reduced to $30m per program for next year, using some funds that weren’t spent this year. HSD’s community safety capacity building program was also partly funded by funds not yet used for the program this year. The Seattle Community Safety Initiative (the community safety hubs) appears to now be fully funded as well.
Much of the funds to stand up Triage One were cut because SFD is now saying the new program can’t be stood up until December 2022 or January 2023 at the earliest. Apparently bargaining with SPOG about having some 911 calls answered by this new unit won’t even begin till spring 2022. This is all in spite of this new program being announced with large fanfare this past summer. There is still some confusion about the ultimate purpose of this program and how it will complement or fit into other alternate emergency response in the city.
CM Lewis’s amendment asking for $3.1m for a pilot program for a contracted provider-based low-acuity 911 emergency response was not included in the package. This would have started up a program in Seattle similar to CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR or STAR in Denver. Instead $400k is being added to the CSCC to develop an implementation plan and response protocols for such a program, so if it ever gets funded, at least this early work will have been done.
Still, this feels like a setback, especially since Mayor Elect Harrell has said he supports a CAHOOTS-like program in Seattle. The lack of funding for a coherent and cohesive plan for alternate emergency response in Seattle is one of the major disappointments of this balancing package and of the City’s work in general around public safety in the last year and a half.
Other programs not funded in this balancing package include Just Care, which houses people without homes in hotels and would have to cease operations by June 2022; LEAD, which is getting a bit of money but enough to scale up as much as was hoped; and much less funding than requested for the mobile crisis teams managed by DESC to address behavioral health crises, as well as no capital funds for a new voluntary crisis stabilization center. It looks like there will be no additional van for Health One either, although that might be due to constraints in SFD right now.
Programs that are being funded include adding more dispatcher positions to the CSCC, adding more firefighters, and funding CM Morales’s proposal for restorative justice programs. Funds totaling around $4.5m were added for various diversion programs.
The balancing package also provides an impressive $192m for affordable housing and related services.
After tonight’s hearing, the next budget meeting will be at 9:30am on Friday. There will be a chance for public comment at the beginning of this meeting. CMs will continue to discuss the balancing package, asking clarifying questions to Central Staff. Any self-balancing amendments they care to propose must be turned in by noon on Friday.
Other Resources on the Balancing Package