Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn today submitted a proposed 2014 general fund budget to the City Council that, for the first time in four years, doesn’t make major cuts.
The improving economy translates into increased city revenues that the mayor said will allow him to add 176 employees next year after laying off almost 550 between 2010 and 2012.
The increasing revenue also allows the mayor to fund many popular programs in an election year. Over the past two weeks, McGinn has held an almost daily news conference to announce a new beneficiary of the city’s current largesse, including senior citizens, perschoolers and domestic-violence victims.
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 $4 million to improve traffic flow downtown. It also shores up the city’s human services safety net, adding almost $1 million for homeless services, $450,000 for domestic violence services and half a million for early learning and child care.
“It’s a welcome change,” McGinn said. “It’s a lot more invigorating as mayor to talk about where we can invest rather than where we have to cut.”
The federal and state governments continue to slash funding for human services. Budget Director Beth Goldberg said that since 2010, the city has lost almost $33 million in social-service funding. Over that same period, the city has increased its own contribution almost $15 million to make up the difference, but hasn’t been able to restore all the programs. With additional revenue in 2014, the city will pay to keep a winter shelter and a women’s shelter open year round, increase hours at hygiene centers so they can remain open seven days a week, open a new shelter south of downtown and increase support for people living in their cars.
The mayor also added money for a new bicycle greenway parallel to 23rd Avenue in the Central District, pedestrian and bicycle facilities near the Northgate light rail station, and a new pedestrian crossing near the Montlake light rail station. The mayor also is proposing $3.2 million to improve the city’s transit network including planning and preliminary design of a ship canal crossing for a future light rail line and connecting the South Lake Union streetcar with the First Hill streetcar.