City Council passes the budget

Each budget season I try to provide a quick synopsis of how the council has altered the city budget as the mayor presented it to us. In this update I've borrowed generously from our staff's summary. In a few places I've added some commentary or abbreviated the material, but, overall, I'm presenting information as our staff has summarized it. I believe it provides a fair summary of the changes the council made to the new city budget.

Every spring the mayor begins the budget process by asking each of the city departments to provide him with their proposed budget. He provides them general parameters, such as how much their budget may be cut or in good times how much they could add. Over the past three years, due to the failing regional economy, state initiatives and state legislature actions, the city has had to cut about $100 million from its budgets.

Our 2005 general fund budget is about $680 million, not including federal grants or revenue generated from within our utilities. The utility budgets, by state law, must be kept separate and their revenue may not be commingled with the city's general revenues.

At the beginning of September, the mayor presents his city budget to the City Council. We must approve it by the end of November. Our formal vote this year will be on Nov. 22, but the vote we took recently is the budget that has been agreed to among the councilmem-bers and passed out of our budget committee. It represents a balanced and fiscally sustainable 2005-2006 biennial city budget package that had to overcome about a $20 million budget shortfall.

However, more unanticipated - yet mandated - costs appeared, creating about a $2-million budget shortfall. Keeping to our previously expressed priority of putting the needs of people first, the council restored cut services for low-income families, the poor, homebound and elderly, as well as providing for these unanticipated costs by trimming the mayor's budget, using unexpected revenue and modestly raising utility taxes. In addition to funding basic human services, the council also made significant contributions to our transportation infrastructure

Among others, the City Council made the following changes in the city's biennial budget:

* The Seattle Public Library

The Budget Committee added $500,000 in 2005 and 2006 to help restore the library's bookmobile program. It also added $500,000 in one-time funds to bring the city's total appropriation for the Library's book collection budget to $3.2 million in 2005. The council encourages the Library to explore options for using the funds to create a "Matching Fund" program for the collections budget.

* Seattle Department of Transportation

The committee added $2.1 million in the 2005 budget, and $1.8 million in the 2006 budget for transportation related programs and improvements. Included is $1 million in funding for arterial street paving. Also, bridge maintenance and inspection, neighborhood traffic services, neighborhood corridor planning, bike and pedestrian improvements, neighborhood pedestrian improvements and traffic signal maintenance received additional funding.

* Human services

The council restored $300,000 to human services that had been cut from the mayor's budget. The council restored 100 percent of the proposed cuts from Access to Services funds, Police Advocacy funds and funding for technical support for nonprofit organizations.

* Late night recreation

The council restored a $152,336 cut, which reinstates the Late Night Recreation Program in city parks.

Also, the council provided funding to the Human Services Department for a Request for Proposal, funding services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender at-risk and homeless youth.

* Neighborhood magistrate

The council restored to full operation the magistrates in the city's Neighborhood Service Centers. Magistrates are in the community nine days every two weeks in five locations throughout the city.

* Community service contracts

This reinstated funding for agencies that provide outreach and education regarding repayment options and suspended licenses.

* Community opportunity program

The council establishes a Community Production Opportunity Program with the goal to enable the Seattle Channel to create more programming that reflects the cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity of the citizens of Seattle.

* Teen parent program

The council added funds to the Human Services Department, Family Development Budget for the Teen Parenting Program. This program provides case management to pregnant and parenting teens between the ages of 15 and 17.

* Seattle parks

At the Volunteer Park Conservatory, the committee eliminated the proposed entrance fees at the conservatory and asked the Department of Parks and Recreation to implement a more rigorous donation system.

* Parking fees in city parks

The Committee eliminated the proposed Parks Parking Fees removing parking meters designated for certain parks.

Nick Licata is a Seattle City Councilmember. He can be reached at 684-8803 or[[In-content Ad]]