As I mentioned in my post about allegations of fraud involving a Human Services Department contractor earlier today, HSD director Dannette Smith outlined budget cuts to the city council this morning that include a reduction of 2.5 contract investigators, including two positions that are currently vacant.

HSD contract manager Sara Levin told the council the department was refocusing its budget on direct services and backfilling cuts to federal community development block grant (CDBG) dollars that used to pay for emergency shelters, but added, "We hope to not make more cuts in that category."

Other HSD cuts next year include:

• A $261,000 reduction to professional development for early learning and child care providers;

• A $17,000 cut to a program that provides seeds to low-income people who want to grow their own food; and

• Reductions to administrative positions and the elimination of one funding agreement coordinator.

Smith said the $17,000 cut was justified because it didn't involve meeting HSD clients' immediate need for food. However, council members noted that while it may take more time to grow food than to buy it outright, it may also, as council member Mike O'Brien put it, make more sense to "give a man a fishing pole" than to give him a fish. On the other hand, O'Brien said, "it may also be a waste of money because people don't have the time or space to garden." Smith could not immediately say whether the program, administered by Solid Ground, has been effective.

After HSD left council chambers, the office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, personnel department, and Department of Neighborhoods all outlined cuts for next year's budget. The Office of Sustainability and the Environment, which is taking on four employees from the Department of Planning and Development's green building team, the Office for Civil Rights, which is hiring two new people to implement the city's mandatory paid sick leave policy, and the Department of Information Technology, which is developing a mobile site for the city, are projected to grow in 2012.

Up tomorrow: Seattle Public Utilities, the proposed Department of Housing and Economic Development (a merger of the city's existing housing office and the Office of Economic Development), City Light, and the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.
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