Mayor Mike McGinn announces the 2014 proposed budget.
How the Mayor's proposed budget affects neighborhoods
For the first time in his tenure, Mayor Mike McGinn has unveiled a $4.4 billion budget that features new expenditures and no cuts.
The news comes at an opportune time. Now he finally gets to unleash a goodybag full of expansions, just in time for a heated election versus State Senator Ed Murray. A recent King 5 poll shows Murray ahead of McGinn 52 percent to 30 percent (18 percent are undecided). The mayor has been taking full advantage of the sunny budget to fire off a barrage of happy-go-lucky press releases to try and gain more traction.
The $1 billion general fund budget includes money for 15 new police officers, an additional $2 million for road maintenance, $7 million for safety improvements around schools and more. It also adds almost $1 million for homeless services, $450,000 for domestic violence services and half a million for early learning and childcare.
The budget will add 167 full-time-equivalent employees next year, a healing salve after the city had to lay off almost 550 between 2010 and 2012.
The Mayor doesn’t have the last say on the budget. Through October and most of November, the City Council will be reviewing the budget and making their own decisions. They are set to adopt a new budget Nov. 25.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights that affects neighborhoods:
In his proposed budget, the mayor has included funding for 15 new police officer positions. Eight will be used to enhance 911 response capabilities in Seattle neighborhoods and seven will be used to meet specialized responsibilities, such as backup for park rangers. The added police officers would bring the total number of sworn ranks to 1,342.
"We have heard from neighborhoods across the city that their number one safety priority is to see more officers walking beats in their communities" said McGinn. "Our improving budget situation allows us the flexibility to meet that need. These new officers will be recruited in partnership with community groups to ensure that they reflect the diversity of Seattle, and provided extensive training in the new standards and procedures that we have developed through our 20/20 reform plan."
In addition, stepping away from the budget for a second, the city of Seattle just won a $1.25 million grant to hire ten more police officers, which will put two officers in each of the city’s five precincts as part of the Community Police Team (CPT) program.
According to the SPD, officers are currently exceeding the goal for 911 response time. While the goal is seven minutes or less, the average in a city Seattle’s size, SPD is currently responding within an average of 6.85 minutes.
Still, in Ballard, response time has become a controversy. At the Healthcare for the Homeless Clinic located at St. Luke’s church this spring, it took over 45 minutes for police to respond to an emergency call about a threatening man with a knife. And in early July, parents called 911 about a man trying to grab children at Salmon Bay Park, but despite several calls police did not arrive for an hour.
Several community members, including the Central Ballard Resident’s Association, the Ballard District Council and members of the Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth, have signed onto a letter to demand more police presence in the neighborhood.
In addition, as The Ballard News-Tribune reported last week, land acquisition and funding continues for the North Precinct. The city appears to be settling on a new site on Aurora Ave and N 130th St. The new site would presumably improve service for the North Precinct in general, as it would be able to accommodate the staff and officers better than the current, outsized location. The new proposed site is 1.5 miles further north from Ballard.
McGinn’s 2014 Proposed Budget includes nearly $500,000 for early learning programs that will act as the building blocks for a citywide universal preschool system. This includes:
- Increase professional development for pre-kindergarten teachers and caregivers through the Early Learning Academy. The Office for Education will spend $25,000 to add 20 in-home family child-care providers to the Early Learning Academy, and spend $20,000 to double the incentive bonuses for those that complete the training.
- Boost retention of effective teachers and help prevent disruption of services to young children and their families.
- Enhance language and literacy development with $156,612 in funding for the Read and Rise pilot project. This project will provide training for 150 families of children from pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade to help narrow the achievement gap for under-served, low-income families.
- Fund a preschool classroom for homeless children ages 3 to 5 years old. $249,218 in funding will allow up to 15 homeless children to receive high quality teaching at the Wellspring Early Learning Center that includes well-qualified teachers, a low student-to-teacher ratio, childcare, and parent engagement.
- Increase training, support and outreach for immigrant and refugee child-care providers. A total of $148,500 in funding will cover an additional 60 providers to the City’s Comprehensive Child Care Program. The Human Services Department will also spend $104,000 to add an education specialist to the Comprehensive Child Care Program to improve quality support and training to prepare providers for advancement within the Early Learning Academy and accommodate the growing caseload.
- An additional $50,000 to fund a Preschool for All proposal that can be submitted to the voters. The proposal will assess options for phasing in and funding universal preschool for three and four year olds, cost estimates, and strategies to ensure it is of high quality, accessible, and affordable. The study will be completed by spring 2014.
Investment in school zone safety improvements
$14.8 million in revenue collected through the City’s school zone speed cameras will be re-invested in safety improvements at schools across Seattle over the next two years. This will include improvements like new sidewalks, improved street crossings, and traffic calming at more than 20 schools as well as expanded education and encouragement programs to increase safety for students.
The mayor announced an increase of $500,000 to the Neighborhood Matching Fund. This increase restores the amount of funds available to support neighborhood projects back to pre-recession levels. In addition, the budget will add another staff position to support the program and its awardees. McGinn's proposal also includes $60,000 for projects designed to discourage criminal activity.
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