Seattle City Hall Update: Mayor releases budget, Council holds first public hearing Tuesday

By: Meg Hanan and Alicia Teel Posted: 10/05/2020

Eight-week process to finalize 2021 budget begins

On September 29, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan gave her annual Budget Address where she unveiled her proposal for the City of Seattle's 2021 budget. While the overall budget is roughly $6.5 billion, much of the attention over the next two months will focus on the $1.5 billion general fund, which is the City's general purpose fund and the most flexible segment of the budget.

While amount of the general fund is roughly the same as last year, this is largely because the 2021 budget proposal includes $214 million in revenue from the payroll tax that Council approved earlier this year. The City plans to begin assessing the tax in 2021 and will start collecting the tax in 2022. The City's budget documents warn that this tax comes with risks. In its general fund summary, analysts warn that "the payroll expense tax that the Seattle City Council passed in July will add to business costs, possibly slow down the employment recovery, and make Seattle less attractive relative to other cities in the region." 

Projections for other taxes driven by economic activity are down dramatically: the sales tax and the B&O tax will bring in roughly $120 million less than projected earlier, and  other taxes connected to our economy, such as the sweetened beverage tax, the admissions tax, and the real estate excise tax - are down by $65 million. These figures point to to the critical need for elected leaders to work with the private and non-profit sectors on economic recovery. 

What is in the Mayor's budget? 
Key elements of Mayor Durkan's 2021 budget: 

  • Includes a wage freeze for unrepresented City employees
  • Depletes most reserve funds leaving $5 million
  • $100 million in new funding for BIPOC communities
    • Creates a task force to plan investments
  • Expands Health One to North and South Seattle
  • Transfers Parking Enforcement, Office of Emergency Management, victim advocates, and 911 call center out of SPD
  • Increases the Human Services Department’s budget by $26 million (in part due to a federal grant to expand homeless shelter services)
  • SDOT has an $85 million revenue shortfall
    • $25 million is covered by a loan, the rest comes with project delays and other reductions
    • This budget does not assume voter approval of STBD and also does not include vehicle license fees (still tied up by the lawsuit against I-976)

Additional coverage of the Mayor's proposal appears in PublicolaThe Seattle TimesCrosscut, and SCC Insight,. For more information, please see the City's executive summary of the proposed budget,

What Comes Next? 
The Council's budget process will take place over the next two months, with final approval of the 2021 budget expected around Thanksgiving. 

Tomorrow, October 6, the Council holds its first Public Hearing on the 2021 Budget is tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. Public comment sign-up opens at 3:30 p.m., and you can sign up on this page here. You can also submit written comment at the link. 

Issue identification form (Form A) are due from Councilmembers on October 8,and offer Councilmembers to make proposals about what issues should be included in Council's budget discussions or analyzed for potential amendments.

Also Happening at Council This Week 

  • CM Herbold shared that a preliminary injunction has been issued on SPD’s use of crowd control weapons. There are more details here
  • CM Juarez shared that she has scheduled hearing dates for appeals to the Waterfront LID assessment, which is on this week’s Introduction and Referral Calendar (IRC) and Full Council agenda

Council Meeting

  • An ordinance delaying increased assessment values for the SODO BIA
  • An ordinance extending the COVID emergency changes to the Design Review Process for land use decisions
  • A resolution setting hearing dates for appeals to the Waterfront LID assessments (on this week’s IRC)
  • Ordinances relating to City Light:
    • A resolution adopting City Light’s Transportation Electrification Strategic Investment Plan
    • An ordinance granting the authority to offer incentive programs in the electrification of transportation for its customers
    • An ordinance allowing discretion in providing additional services, including Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations, on a parcel as it deems necessary
    • An ordinance defining the Net Wholesale Revenue target for 2021-2024
    • An ordinance updating Open Access Transmission Tariff and rates to be consistent with changes in costs and regulations

Introduction and Referral Calendar

  • Transferring Fire Station 6 to the Africatown Community Land Trust
  • Transferring property to the Central Area Senior Center
  • Scheduling hearing dates for appeals to the Waterfront LID assessments