Mayor's proposed budget cuts administrative jobs
Proposing to cut only administrative costs, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced a city budget of $3.9 billion for 2009 and $4 billion for 2010.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Proposing to cut only administrative costs, Mayor Greg Nickels Monday announced what he called a compassionate Seattle budget for 2009 and 2010.
As the city's general-fund contracts slightly, the mayor wants to eliminate administrative jobs and instead direct money to prevent youth violence, add police officers and provide food and housing for homeless people.
"We will make some difficult decisions this year, but we have a track record of making responsible decisions each year," Nickels said in a speech to the City Council. "We are prepared to weather a financial storm."
The city's total proposed 2009-10 budget is $3.9 billion for 2009 and $4 billion for 2010.
The general fund, which covers most core operations such as police, fire and library services, would be $920 million in 2009, about 0.6 percent smaller than this year's $926 million general fund. In 2010, the general fund would be $952 million.
While the mayor did not ask for any tax increases, he did recommend raising parking-meter rates by 50 cents an hour, which would increase revenue by $3.5 million over the next two years. The mayor also proposed adding meters to more neighborhoods.
The budget proposal is based on financial projections made in August, and city budget Director Dwight Dively said he did not know how the current financial uncertainty will affect the city's finances.
The city will avoid the significant budget shortfalls King County and the state are both facing because the city's revenue sources are more diverse, coming from taxes on property, retail sales, businesses and utilities, Dively said.
The mayor's goal of protecting city services at the expense of administrative costs appeared in line with priorities the City Council laid out earlier. It's unclear whether his $9.2 million youth-violence-prevention program will win council approval.
The money would go toward helping 800 at-risk kids in the Central Area, Southeast and Southwest Seattle through case management, employment programs, middle-school outreach and street outreach. About $5.6 million would be new spending and $3.6 million would come from existing programs.
Last year, the council turned down a $9 million proposal from the mayor to build a new customer-service hotline. Members instead directed the money to improve pedestrian safety, human services and libraries. The council expects to approve a budget for 2009 and 2010 by the end of November.
"I can applaud what he said," said Councilmember Jean Godden, budget chair, of the mayor's address Monday. "We still haven't seen the details of where he's getting the money from, so naturally we want to go over that with our priorities in mind."
Nickels' proposal also funds more homeless services, including $2.1 million to build permanent housing, $1 million to expand shelters and $575,000 for more food assistance.
Activists have criticized Nickels for months after he renewed the city's policy of removing homeless camps from greenbelts. Last week, a group set up 150 tents in Highland Park and dubbed it Nickelsville. The city removed the camp Friday and arrested 22 people, most of whom were released.
To pay for his new programs in the general fund, Nickels proposed eliminating 88 administrative positions, including an assistant police chief and a deputy fire chief. The assistant police chief in charge of investigations, for example, is retiring and he will not be replaced, Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said.
By freezing open positions and making layoffs, the city would cut from the department of executive administration, finance, information technology, neighborhoods, planning and development, and the retirement system.
But the city still expects a net increase of 119 positions through growth in the transportation and utilities departments.
Nickels' budget proposal also included:
• Continuing his and the council's previous pledge to expand the police department by hiring 42 new patrol officers;
• $10.6 million to acquire and develop Northgate Park;
• $3.5 million in additional funding for sidewalk construction;
• $1 million to increase library collections; and
• $1.5 million to develop the Theatre Commons area at Seattle Center.
Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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