What to know about the proposed 2020-2021 City of Seattle budget

By: Maggie Wilson Posted: 11/15/2019

Chamber members learn from Seattle Budget Director Ben Noble, and Editor of SCC Insight, Kevin Schofield


At our latest Business Issues Forum, Chamber members learned about the proposed 2020-2021 City of Seattle budget. We heard from Ben Noble, Budget Director for the City of Seattle, who gave an overview of the budget that Mayor Jenny Durkan has proposed, and Kevin Schofield, writer and editor of SCC Insight, who offered his commentary as a close observer of Seattle City Hall.

  • The risk of recession

Noble started with a brief overview of the national economy and showed a consensus forecast of modest growth. The growth of the U.S. economy is projected to slow in 2020, Noble said. He added that there is an ever-increasing risk of recession because of trade conflict.

Still, Noble noted that Washington state economically out-performs the U.S., and Seattle is the driver of that region-wide growth.

Schofield warned of a recession more explicitly. “There is a recession coming,” he said. “A plurality say it’s going to be next year.” Schofield pointed to several key signals: Manufacturing has been decreasing, U.S. exports are shrinking, Washington state exports are down, and Seattle home prices are going down.

  • What the Mayor's proposed budget would fund

Noble and Schofield both discussed proposed city budget investments in affordable housing, young and working families including through expanding the Seattle Promise College Tuition Program, transportation, addressing homelessness, and other areas of city development and maintenance.

Addressing the homelessness emergency with funding for supportive housing, rapid rehousing, shelter beds, and diversion programs are city priorities, Noble said.

Mayor Durkan has proposed that one-time revenue generated by the sale of the Mercer Megablock be shared by the Seattle Department of Transportation and the general fund. In Mayor Durkan's proposal, more than half of the proceeds from the Megablock sale would be used to address Seattle's housing crisis through the Housing Seattle Now program.

  • Points of contention

Now, City Council is deliberating policy and funding changes to the 2020 budget.  Recommendations from the High Barrier Individuals Working Group, including probation changes and expanding the recently opened shelter within King County Jail, have generated interest and questions, Noble said. Those recommendations will undergo discussion and study.

Seattle’s Navigation Team, a group of outreach workers and Seattle Police Department personnel who help connect people experiencing homelessness with services, is also being studied by city leaders. Councilmembers will examine whether that team is part of the best long-term solution.

Schofield also highlighted the Council’s review of police emphasis patrols as the budget is finalized, mentioning his recent writing on those patrols and the broken windows theory.

You can follow Kevin Schofield's SCC Insight on Twitter. You can read more about Ben Noble and the proposed 2020-2021 budget here.

The Chamber's Business Issues Forum is the place to learn about and discuss emerging policy issues that matter to your business and the community. A benefit available only to members, meetings include informational briefings from guest speakers and structured discussion with fellow members.