On Tuesday night we held the second of two public hearings on the City’s budget. Hundreds waited for hours to speak about their priorities, to tell their stories, and to plead for their programs. Every speaker made a strong case and it’s clear that some very difficult decisions loom before us.
There are actually two processes happening simultaneously. One involves revisiting the 2010 budget and the other process revolves around the 2011/2012 budget.
Because city revenues are down, we’re facing a $10-$11M shortfall for the 2010 budget. Mayor McGinn has instructed department heads to go back to their 2010 budget to find reductions. Some departments including fire, police and human services have been asked to reduce their budgets by 1.5% and other departments, including Seattle Parks and Recreation, have been directed to make a 3% reduction to their current operating budget.
The department proposals have just been submitted to the City’s Department of Finance (DOF) and they will review the submissions and consult with the Mayor’s Office over the coming weeks. City Council anticipates that we’ll be having meetings with DOF during the last week of May, before Memorial Day, to hear about the Mayor’s decisions regarding these mid-year reductions. The Mayor will likely announce these decisions in early June and the designated reductions would be implemented in early July.
It’s important to note that since these mid-year reductions are administrative changes, City Council does not need to enact an ordinance.
As of today, I haven’t seen or heard about any specifics cuts. Like you, I’ve heard rumblings but nothing has been verified. What I do know is that I am having a running dialogue with Christopher Williams, our acting Parks Superintendent, emphasizing the value and need for our parks, pools, programs and community centers.
The second piece to this puzzle is the 2011/2012 budget. Based on revenue projections, the City is facing a shortfall of nearly $60M for 2011. These figures are staggering, to say the least. Mayor McGinn has asked that each department create budgets based on three different scenarios. Parks will likely face cuts that range between 9.5% to 14.5%. The Mayor will then create a final budget proposal based on those various figures. He’ll also have an opportunity to consider the priorities that citizens have voiced, and I’m hoping that these stories resonated. Parks aren’t just about playgrounds anymore — they are extensions of our educational system, our public health, our public safety, and perhaps most importantly, parks are where we create community and re-create ourselves.
The Mayor will release his 2011 budget near the end of September. From that point on, the City Council will work on it and make changes as we deem necessary. We are required by City Charter to adopt a balanced budget by early December. It’s pretty clear we have a monumental task before us in the fall.