Layoffs part of McGinn's Seattle city budget
Mayor Mike McGinn's 2012 budget shifts focus to outcomes of city services but also cuts more than 110 city jobs.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Public hearingson the 2012 budget
The Seattle City Council will hold public hearings on the proposed budget at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 4 and 26 in Council Chambers, second floor of Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave. See the mayor's budget proposal at seattletimes.com.
McGinn's 2012 proposed city budget
Cuts: 82 employees and about 30 unfilled positions
Consolidates: the Department of Housing and the Department of Economic Development; city grant programs currently in five different departments into one; community centers into five geographic regions, reducing hours at some and eliminating duplicate programing
Freezes: hiring for police, leaving 26 patrol vacancies unfilled
Preserves: library hours at 2011 levels; swimming- and wading-pool hours; and lifeguards at city beaches
Spends: an additional $16 million on street maintenance and $1.5 million on planning for high-capacity transit including rail.
Source: Mayor's Office
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn unveiled his 2012 budget proposal Monday and tried to put the best face on a fourth straight year of cuts, saying he was focused on "outcomes" as he sought to protect his priorities of jobs, help for needy families and transit.
In a speech to a Seattle Community College audience, the mayor said the city can no longer measure only how much it spends, but must ask, "Are the programs we fund making a difference in people's lives?"
The mayor didn't mention his plan calls for laying off 82 city workers and eliminating 30 unfilled positions. Instead, he talked of combining some city offices and services to help close the budget shortfall.
The 2012 budget totals $4.2 billion, including the city's $910 million general fund, the discretionary part of city spending. More than half of the general fund goes toward public safety, but it also funds other arts and recreation, administration and health and human services, among other offices.
McGinn echoed his theme as he detailed his plan to save $2.4 million in the police budget by not filling 26 patrol vacancies. With crime at a 55-year low, the department meeting its goals for 911 response time and officers working proactively in the community, the mayor said the department is meeting its challenges with the current staff.
"We're not approaching the police budget by asking how many officers we need. We're approaching it by asking what are the most efficient ways to achieve our outcomes — in this case, keeping the public safe," McGinn said.
Similarly, he said his proposal to reduce hours at some community centers and not offer the same programs at centers in adjacent neighborhoods would save $1.2 million in 2012. His plan would restructure the centers so all 26 remain open at the times of greatest use.
The mayor's budget also calls for consolidation. It would combine the Office of Housing and the Office of Economic Development, place five neighborhood grant programs in a central office and merge two civil-service commissions into a single board.
The budget also preserves library hours and the money to buy new books. It keeps swimming- and wading-pool hours and lifeguards at the city beaches.
The mayor proposed using one-time revenues including $9.8 million in Parks Levy savings and almost $2 million from an insurance settlement to repair community centers and parks.
"This isn't just taking care of our facilities — it's creating jobs right now. It's our own little Seattle stimulus package," the mayor said.
He also identified $16 million from a sale of city land to fund additional street maintenance and $1.5 million for transit planning, including rail.
Some of the proposals, announced at a series of news conferences over the past few weeks, already have generated opposition. Some City Council members question not hiring more police when no new patrol officers have been added since 2010 and some neighborhoods continue to be plagued by drugs, burglaries and assaults.
The proposal to bring the Office of Housing within the Office of Economic Development also has raised questions, in part because the merger saves only $338,000. The housing office has almost double the number of employees at 40 and manages a more than $200 million annual budget, including money from the voter-approved housing levy. Economic Development, in contrast, administers about $5 million annually in grants.
Councilmember Nick Licata said a conflict could emerge if the housing staff recommended a homeless shelter that was opposed by the local business community. "I don't want the person making the final call so economically development oriented that he devalues the need to house the homeless," Licata said.
But one housing advocate said she was "cautiously optimistic" that the combined offices could take a broader approach to neighborhood redevelopment.
"I think it's important to understand the mayor's vision to bring down different silos of city government and take a more holistic approach," said Maiko Winkler-Chin, executive director of the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority.
The City Council will take up the budget recommendations next week. The full council is expected to approve a 2012 budget by Thanksgiving.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or seattletimes.com">email@example.com
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