Higher utilities, parking fees, layoffs in McGinn budget
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's 2011 budget proposal calls for layoffs of more than 200 city workers, higher parking fees and library fines, a hiring freeze for police officers and cuts to arts, culture and recreation.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle budget hearingsThe Seattle City Council will hold public hearings on Mayor Mike McGinn's 2011 proposed budget. All hearings begin at 5:30 p.m., with sign-in at 5 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 29: Northgate Community Center Gym, 10510 Fifth Ave. N.E.
Wednesday, Oct. 13: The Brockey Center at South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Ave S.W.
Tuesday, Oct. 26: Seattle City Hall, Council Chambers, second floor, 600 Fourth Ave.
Watch Mayor Mike McGinn's budget proposal address
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's 2011 budget proposal calls for layoffs of more than 200 city workers, increased parking fees and library fines, a police hiring freeze and cuts to arts, culture and recreation.
Residents also would pay more for electricity and other utilities under McGinn's plan.
He addressed a roomful of people just after noon Monday at the Rainier Beach Community Center. Amid many cuts to departments, McGinn proposed funding a $20 million rebuild of the aging community center in Rainier Beach — something that was included but unfunded in last year's budget.
The City Council, which is hearing a budget address from the mayor Monday afternoon, must adopt a budget before the end of the year.
The mayor and council must fill a $67 million shortfall in the $888 million proposed 2011 general-fund budget. In 2010, the general fund was $905 million.
"We did not attempt to balance this budget simply by asking the public for more money. We know it's tight out there," McGinn said.
The mayor proposed cutting 294 positions, 214 of which are currently filled.
Parks and community centers
The parks department would take an $8.1 million cut, with 105 jobs on the chopping block.
The good news is that swimming pools wouldn't close and lifeguards would remain at all public beaches.
But seven of the city's 22 wading pools would stay closed.
In a move sure to draw criticism from neighborhoods, hours would be reduced at five of the city's 26 community centers — Alki, Ballard, Laurelhurst, Queen Anne and Green Lake.
"I didn't take these decisions lightly," McGinn said.
The Rainier Beach center would close for two years for its renovation.
Parks fees would increase.
The library system would absorb 8.5 percent in cuts, but keep hours as they were in 2010. Libraries would be closed for a week in late summer, as they were this year.
His budget would maintain library hours, but remove librarians from eight branches, making them "circulating branches." Those libraries would remain open for 35 hours a week, but no librarian would be on duty.
Library fines would go up.
McGinn called for a halt to police hiring, but proposed re-deploying 30 officers to patrol jobs.
The mayor called for paying more at the meter, including charging for parking 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays (Sundays are currently free) and extending paid parking for two hours, until 8 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.
The hourly parking meter rate would rise by $1.50 an hour downtown and 50 cents in other parts of the city. Current rates are $2.50 an hour downtown and between 75 cents and $2 an hour elsewhere.
The City Council, meanwhile, voted last week to raise commercial parking taxes by 2.5 percentage points, to 12.5 percent total.
Higher utility rates sought
Seattle City Light rates would increase by 4.3 percent in 2011 and another 4.2 percent in 2012.
Solid-waste rates would increase 7.5 percent, and drainage rates would increase 12.8 percent.
Water rates would increase 3.5 percent.
City employees' pay
McGinn announced Sept. 11 that he had made a deal with a coalition of the city's unions to lower their cost-of-living increases to the rate of inflation, saving $2.3 million from the city's general fund. That deal affected about 6,000 workers, most of the unionized workforce.
The mayor also froze executive salaries. The budget situation could get worse or better depending on what voters do in November.
Mayor made "value decisions"
McGinn said he relied on "values" to make cuts and raise fees in his budget proposal. They included living within the city's means, being effective, considering race and social justice, maintaining public safety and health, sharing prosperity, and being environmentally sustainable.
For every cut and fee increase, McGinn said, "I've made a value decision that I hope reflects the public's value decisions."
After the nearly one-hour speech dominated by the nuts and bolts of his plan, McGinn concluded by urging people to use the tough economic times to consider the "shared destiny" of people who live together in a city.
"I believe we will ultimately say to ourselves, 'Look at our city. Look how proud we are of it. Look what we can do.' "
McGinn is delivering his budget to the council amid a power struggle between the two branches of government. Last week, McGinn accused Council President Richard Conlin of violating the city charter by signing a state environmental study about the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project. McGinn says only the mayor had the authority to sign that document.
The revenue picture
If voters pass state Initiative 1107, removing new sales taxes on candy, soda, gum and bottled water, the city would lose about $1.2 million next year, according to the city budget office. If one of two liquor-privatization initiatives were to pass, the city projects it would lose between $2 million and $4 million in 2011.
But if a countywide sales-tax increase passes, the city says it would gain $8.7 million, a third of which would have to be spent on public safety.
The council spent much of the city's rainy-day fund last year, hoping the economy would rebound. It didn't, and the city still suffers a loss of revenue tied to sales taxes and building permits.
Trying to stay ahead of the falling revenues, the mayor made $12.4 million in midyear budget cuts in June. He closed some wading pools, postponed hiring 21 new police officers and laid off 13 city employees, along with a variety of other cuts.
Staff reporter Sonia Krishnan contributed to this report. Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org