COVID, community safety, investing in BIPOC communities top priorities in Seattle mayor’s budget
On the heels of a contentious process of rebalancing the 2020 budget due to the economic hit from COVID-19, it starts all over again Tuesday as Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan released her proposed $6.5 billion budget for 2021.
Despite significant reductions in revenue with hits to the soda tax, gas tax, B&O and other taxes due to most people being home due to the pandemic, Durkan’s proposal covers her top priorities, including COVID relief, reimagining public safety, investing in BIPOC communities, as well as making new investments to address homelessness.
The proposal cuts about $63 million in general fund spending, but more than doubles that in new spending, including the $100 million investment Durkan vowed to invest in BIPOC communities. That begins with a task force Durkan says will launch a transparent process to guide city leaders on where those investments are most needed. The mayor says she believes her task force, and the new Black Brilliance research project led by King County Equity Now, will accent one another.
The budget also follows through on promised changes to the Seattle Police Department, including cuts to overtime, shifting emergency operations, parking enforcement, and the 911 call centers out of the SPD. The SPD will see a loss of 22 sworn officers under this proposal.
Durkan’s budget proposal also includes funding to keep all existing homeless services available, including 2,300 shelter beds, and more than half of the enhanced shelters or tiny homes that see the best success rates. The mayor says a $26 million one-time federal grant will also be used to immediately expand shelter services.
The Seattle Department of Transportation will see $60 million in cuts, leaving many projects on hold for things like paving and bike lane repair, among others.
Between the Seattle City Council’s actions in the rebalanced 2020 budget that dipped into a big chunk of the city’s reserves, and another $52 million the mayor’s 2021 proposal uses, the city’s fiscal reserves will be drawn down to just $5 million.