City I Read the Mayor’s Budget So You Don’t Have To
posted by October 1 at 17:34 PMon
In addition to the two budget changes I’ve written about elsewhere—namely, a $4.4 million boon to the Department of Information Technology to convert the city’s email system to Microsoft technology and a the elimination of planned pedestrian improvements on Aurora and Linden Avenue in North Seattle—Mayor Greg Nickels’s 2009-2010 budget includes a number of changes beyond the mere “administrative” cuts the daily papers alluded to in their coverage. As revenues from sources like real estate taxes continue to drop (in the words of a finance department staffer at this morning’s council budget briefing, “we have now completely fallen off the cliff”), it’s safe to say that the relatively minor cuts the mayor has proposed this year are just the beginning. A few highlights and lowlights:
Remember when the city council announced, with great fanfare, that the city was finally increasing the library’s collections budget—allowing the Seattle Public Library to fill up all those shiny new branch libraries with actual books? That didn’t last long—as I noted in June, the library was one of the the most vulnerable city departments going into this year’s budget cuts, and the increase they received last year to buy more library materials—a relatively modest $2 million—is going awa. However, city finance department director Dwight Dively noted a silver lining: At least “there are no proposed changes in library hours.” Which is good, since most libraries are open no more than six hours on Sunday, and neighborhood libraries don’t open until 1:00 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Three public-safety programs—Get Off the Streets, Co-Stars, and Communities Uniting Rainier Beach—are being proposed for elimination. Get Off the Streets is a program aimed at “lowering crime in the Central Area by providing services to people involved in non-violent street crime who are drug or alcohol dependent and homeless”; Co-Stars was intended to help homeless people get into and stay in permanent housing; and CURB, formerly known as Clean Dreams, attempts to identify, reach, and reeducate young people at risk of causing public safety problems in crime-ridden areas. Cutting funding for all three programs—which Dively said were targeted because they “did not actually save any money in jail usage… by the people that were actually served by the programs”—will save the city $456,000.
The city will also be eliminating a $350,000 fund to pay tenants displaced by condo conversions - a subject Jonah has covered here and here—on the grounds that, according to the budget,”due to the significant reduction in condominium conversions, there has been little demand for this program.”
In contrast, funding for the Mercer Corridor Project—a street-widening proposal that I also wrote about in this week’s column—is slated to go up by $82.5 million, reflecting the mayor’s belief that, as Seattle Department of Transportation deputy director Bob Powers told a meeting of the Othello Neighborhood Association last week, Mercer constitutes “critical infrastructure” to serve the additional 20,000 workers the city estimates are coming to South Lake Union. According to the mayor’s budget, “none of the money appropriated for 2009 for SDOT’s Major Project Budget Control Level can be spent to pay forconstruction until authorized by ordinance.”
More, doubtless, to come. For more on the budget, including a schedule of upcoming council meetings and public hearings, check out the city’s comprehensive budget web site here.