City Hall

Mayor's Budget Slashes Jobs, Closes Pools and Community Centers, Raises Commercial Parking Tax and Meter Parking Rates

By Erica C. Barnett September 27, 2010

I'm at the packed, stuffy, un-airconditioned Rainier Beach Community Center, where Mayor Mike McGinn, frequently wiping sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief, is delivering his bummer of a budget speech.

"This proposed budget contains a balanced set of changes that does not rely on any general tax increases," McGinn said. "Rather, the budget is balanced first and foremost on internal savings and efficiencies ... a modest set of rate increases … and difficult reductions."

Here's a high-level view of the mayor's budget proposal:

In addition to eliminating 294 positions (214 of those currently filled), McGinn's four-year budget would:

• Forgo hiring 62 additional police officers to implement the city's neighborhood policing plan; previously, McGinn had only proposed not hiring 21 of those officers next year;

• Require all discretionary (non-union) employees to forgo cost-of-living pay increases next year and require union employees to agree to a 0 percent "floor" for pay increases;

• Reduce funding for the police department 1.2 percent and the fire department 1.5 percent;

• Reduce funding for human services 5 percent, slashing funding for programs that provide support to neighborhood crime prevention councils and eliminating funding for the Indoor Air Quality program and a drop-in day center for seniors;

• Close seven wading pools permanently and another 10 partially;

• Close down the Rainier Beach Community Center (another community center will be completed in two years) and reducing hours and access at six community centers;

• Reduce staff at boating centers at Green Lake and Mount Baker;

• Reduce funding for public programs at environmental learning centers, which include nature walks and bird programs;

• Cut 8.5 percent from the library system, reducing services at eight of the system's smallest branches, cutting the budget for collections, raising fines, and closing the entire system for one week each summer; and

• Close down six neighborhood service centers.

McGinn's budget would also raise some existing fees and create some new ones.

• The hourly parking rate downtown would go up $1.50; in other parts of the city, it would increase by 50 cents.

• Parking would no longer be free on Sundays.

• The city would go after parking-fine scofflaws more aggressively to collect some of the $15 million in parking fines that is now outstanding;

• The fee for cat licenses would go up from from $15 to $20 for neutered cats and from $20 to $30 for non-neutered cats.

• The city would begin charging $50 for dual King County/Seattle taxi licenses;

• Library fines would go up and children under 13 would be subject to collections for unpaid fines;

• The police department would increase the fee for false alarms, which currently make up 97 percent of all alarms requiring a police response;

• Fire permits would go up 10 to  15 percent;

• Municipal court fees would increase substantially;

• and various fees to use parks department services like pools, gymnasiums, and picnic space, would also go up.

That's the general fund. Other departments that aren't funded by the general fund will take even more substantial hits.

• The Seattle Department of Transportation would lose $3.3 million in non-general fund money, on top of $5.8 million from the general fund. Those cuts mean longer pothole response times; increases to the fees for residential parking zone permits and on-street parking; a five-percent increase in the commercial parking tax (on top of the 2.5 percent increase proposed by the council to pay for early work on the seawall); and a $20 vehicle license fee.

• The city's department of Planning and Development will lose 42 positions (in addition to 11 general-funded positions), in addition to the 155 positions DPD has lost since 2007.

• Seattle City Light rates will go p 4.2 percent next year and 4.2 percent in 2012.

• In addition to eliminating 37 positions, Seattle Public Utilities' would increase wastewater rates 7.5 percent next year; drainage rates 12.8 percent; and water rates 3.5 percent.
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