Seattle City Hall Update: Council reviews Mayor's budget with department leaders

By: Meg Hanan Posted: 10/19/2020

Stay up to date on the City of Seattle's 2021 budget process

The Seattle City Council continues its review of the City of Seattle's 2021 budget (more here), a process that will continue through late November.

What's happened so far? 
So far, Council has held meetings with each of the major department heads to walk through the budget proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan in late September. Councilmembers introduce Forms A, B, and C throughout the budget process to reflect the issues of interest and to propose changes. A few years ago, this process was adopted instead of the “Green Sheets” and “Statements of Legislative Intent” or “SLIs” that Councilmembers used to introduce.

Form As are an opportunity for Councilmembers to share their priorities and highlight areas they would like to explore further. On Thursday, October 15, Council began to discuss Form As, also known as Issue Identification. For Issue Identification, Councilmembers do not need to identify funding source or have co-sponsors. According to Councilmember Mosqueda, who chairs Council’s Budget Committee, over 150 Form As were filed for this budget process.

Form Bs require Councilmembers to identify three co-sponsors for their proposed budget changes. Form Bs are due no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 22.

Form Cs must be self-balancing, meaning they must identify other cuts or funding sources to cover the cost of any proposed funding increases. Form Cs are due no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 12.

Final Approval—Council is currently scheduled to hold the final vote on the 2021 budget on November 23.

What is new? 

Last week, the  State Supreme Court overturned I-976 (see the Chamber's comment on this development here). As a result, the City could increase its current car tab collection to help fill the hole in SDOT’s budget. Currently, the city collects a $20 fee for pothole repair and basic maintenance. This could be increased to $40.

What issues has Council raised so far? 

During the budget  briefings with department heads, Councilmembers commented on several areas of the budget. Highlights included: 

  • CM Herbold flagged an interest in removing armed SPD officers from serving as flaggers for special events or to move cars around construction. She indicated it is too expensive and there are other alternatives.
  • Councilmembers noted that the current proposal contains no 2021 funding for immigrants and refugees. Council’s spending resolution for the JumpStart payroll tax indicated that Council intended to use payroll tax funding to make investments in programs to aid immigrants and refugees who have been harmed by COVID but are ineligible for federal relief funds.
  • CM Pedersen expressed concern about sustaining the current funding for bridge maintenance, given that it is currently underfunded.
  • Council also expressed interest in expanding funding for Health One
    • Health One is the Seattle Fire Department’s Mobile Integrated Health response unit. This team was originally focused on the downtown core and responds to non-emergency medical issues, mental health care, or calls for shelter and other services.
  • There continues to be interest in expanding non-congregate shelter primarily around the proposal to lease hotel rooms.
    • Council expressed concern that 10 months was not long enough to be successful and cycle people into other permanent housing.
    • Council also questioned whether it would be preferable to buy hotels instead of leasing.
    • Council’s views, concerns, and desires will be hashed out as they finish up budget committee meetings on Issue Identification on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.