Budget season has officially begun!
First, here’s the thread on this morning’s Council Briefing.
The rest of this week’s schedule is as follows:
9:30am-12pm Overview of the Budget process
2-4:30pm Overview of
Sustainability & Environment, Economic Development
5:30-7:30pm District 1 Town Hall with CM Herbold, discussing public safety and the West Seattle Bridge
6:30pm Rainier Beach Action Coalition Town Hall with CM Morales, State Senator Saldaña, and King County CM Zahilay
9:30am-1pm Overview of the SPD Budget
2pm-5pm: Overview of Public Safety and the Municipal Courts
9:30am-1pm Overview of Homelessness Response and Office of Housing
2-5:30pm Overview of Transportation and Parks
There will be a half hour of public comment every morning this week at 9:30am if you’d like to share your thoughts about the proposed budget (more on budget details below). There is also a District 4 town hall coming up with CM Pedersen next week on Thursday 10/8 6-7:30pm.
Mayor’s Proposed 2021 Budget
The Mayor released a pre-recorded message on her budget, complete with cheesy music and multiple backdrops, which was heavy on discussing her past successes and light on details.
But let’s dig into the actual budget, shall we? You can find the budget executive summary here and the SPD Department Overview here. The Budget Office will be presenting on the details of the budget over the next few days, but I can give you a little preview now, and then we can revisit at the end of the week with more details and signals from the CMs as to how they’re receiving the proposal.
Overview of proposed 2021 SPD and Public Safety Budget
- Calls for 1400 sworn officers instead of the 1422 in 2020’s budget (Note: this seems to completely overlook the provisos in the revised 2020 budget calling for the layoff of 100 sworn officers. In addition, it seems to ignore the attrition already experienced in 2020 alone, which could mean hiring new officers to reach this level. Expect more details about this later this week.)
- Parking Enforcement and 120 employees moved to SDOT
- Office of Emergency Management becomes independent
- 911 Communications Center becomes independent stand-alone unit and is renamed the Seattle Emergency Communications Center.
- Victim Advocacy Team transferred to HSD (comprising of 11 FTES and a $1.25m budget)
- Expands capacity of the OPA and OIG, specifically by adding a civilian investigator supervisor to OPA and funding a study about coordination of resources between the OPA, OIG, and CPC.
- Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) reorganizes probation services by reducing in-person day reporting and moving to collaborative Community Court model.
- SMC reduces traditional post-sentence supervision to focus on higher-risk charges. (#7-8 reduce SMC budget by $1.4m & cuts probation staff by 13 positions, a 25% staffing cut, while adding $100k for a non-profit case manager to make referrals to community-based agencies supporting clients to achieve self-sufficiency outside the court system.)
- The City and County are working on an agreement to redirect some resources now spent on jail operations toward community-based supports, which would reduce jail use.
The 2021 proposed SPD budget (~$360m) represents a 12% cut compared to the 2020 SPD budget (~$409m). However, once the simple transfers of units (and their budgets) outside SPD ($38m) are factored in, the proposed cut is ~2.7%, or around $11m.
The Mayor’s $100m to BIPOC communities controversy:
Since the summer, the Mayor has been promising $100m invested in BIPOC communities in 2021 (although this may have started out as a promise of investment into Black communities). Although she has been cagey about where she’d get this money during the revenue shortfall caused by COVID-19, PubliCola broke the news that this money would be taken from the already allocated Jumpstart payroll tax passed this summer:
“Under the council’s plan, payroll tax revenues would be used in the short term to fund rent relief, non-congregate shelter beds, immigrant and refugee relief programs, grocery vouchers, and direct assistance to child care centers and other small businesses. In the long term, the tax is supposed to provide $214 million a year for low-income and affordable housing, equitable development, small business support, and Green New Deal projects.”
Many of these projects were advocated for and will directly impact BIPOC communities. Mayor Durkan’s actions in this regard will once again cause BIPOC communities to scramble and fight against each other to get much-needed funding. In addition, Mayor Durkan is putting together an appointed task force to allocate this $100m, even though community has been asking for a robust participatory budgeting process. As a result, more than one respected community member has refused to serve on the task force, including Sean Goode, who wrote an op-ed about the problems inherent in this plan.
What about defunding by 50%?
The Mayor’s proposal doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting King County Equity Now’s demands for defunding the police department by 50%. Even accounting for the $38m needed to fund units transferred outside SPD, a 50% defund would provide community with around $166.5m in funds to re-invest every year. While not even shrinking the police department as much as would be accounted for by normal levels of attrition, Mayor Durkan is proposing giving 60% as much funding, which won’t be determined by participatory budgeting, won’t be for only public safety-related needs, and will be taken away from other already allocated purposes that the community needs and has advocated for.
In conclusion, King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle are not going to be happy about this proposed budget. Neither are some CMs. We’ll have to wait and see how the conversation progresses over the next several weeks. The budget season is scheduled to run until November 23.