The Seattle City Council on Monday approved the city's 2018 budget after months of intensive discussions and a last-minute scramble to find cuts. The budget passed almost unanimously, with Kshama Sawant being the lone "no" vote, criticizing council members for what she said was a "business as usual" budget and attempts to favor big businesses.
This marked two years since former mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency on homelessness, and at the heart of the budget this year was pouring investments into the crisis. Here are some highlights:
1. Last week the employee hours tax on big businesses got struck down in a narrow 5-4 council vote—Lisa Herbold's last version was a $125 per year, per full-time employee tax on businesses making above $10 million in gross revenues. Council members instead approved a resolution to consider the tax again by March.
2. Council members backtracked their $1 million cut to the mayor's office; that would've been a 17 percent cut to the $6.3 million budget for the newly elected executive who takes office next week, more than a month earlier than usual. Now it's less than a $400,000 reduction. Instead, the money for the Human Services Department is coming from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections.
3. Council members added about another $7.5 million for the Human Services Department; that includes another $2.75 million into permanent supportive housing, more full-time employees, a homeless day care center, transitional housing for homeless foster youth, and emergency shelter for domestic violence survivors.
4. The city is putting $1.3 million into opening an anticipated safe injection site, which would be the first in the country. King County has also invested $500,000 into the site, and council members have asked city officials to come up with a feasibility study by February 27.
5. The city's Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program is getting $750,000 to expand to the North Precinct (championed by Debora Juarez). That money was originally intended for supporting vehicular residents; Mike O'Brien proposed diverting the funds to LEAD, with the caveat that getting cited for living in a vehicle is also a qualification for LEAD.
6. Sawant's sweeps proviso, which would have limited funding to the city's encampment sweeps, didn't pass through the council. Herbold's version, which essentially sets accountability measures for the sweeps, did pass. Council members also invested another $450,000 into authorized encampments.
7. Council members scratched a $250,000 carpet on the second floor to fund the Seattle Municipal Resource Center, which provides support for homeless people who are in municipal court.
8. A municipal broadband feasibility study, originally proposed by Rob Johnson, didn't make it through the council. But council members did approve $100,000 to study the possibility of a municipal bank.