Seattle Mayor Durkan unveils first budget proposal since taking office

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday unveiled a city budget proposal that calls for spending $5.9 billion for 2019-2020.

"After years of significant growth, city spending and revenue is reaching a plateau. So we have to live within our means,” said Durkan.

That being said, Durkan announced the details of her proposed biennial budget under the backdrop of Seattle Fire Department’s Station 10. According to the mayor, it’s a balanced budget that proposes spending $5.9 billion.

“My plan recognizes that we must reprioritize our budget to invest in the things that matter most,” she said.

In a morning press conference, Durkan said the budget is focused on “basics” like public safety, homelessness and housing developments, building a more equitable and inclusive city, investing in the future, and strengthening transit and transportation systems.

Under the mayor's proposal, $695 million would go toward public safety, which includes funding for 120 new firefighting recruits and 40 new police officers.

“Including relaunching the Community Service Officer program, with 12 new CSO officers and supervisors. They will be an essential link to our communities,” said Durkan.

For the Seattle Fire Department, the budget will add additional recruits, but also provide funding for the Fire Prevention Division, which handles safety codes and inspections.

The proposal also calls for spending $609 million on transit and transportation investments. The city said that will be an increase of $128 million than in 2018.

“We are facing a new era of difficult traffic. It's coming. It's going to be worse than bad and we need to be as ready as possible,” said Durkan.

The mayor’s budget proposal calls for a 30% increase in Metro service over the next two years -- $9 million going toward capital improvements for transit speed and reliability,  and more than $26 million toward pedestrian and bike safety routes. Another $101 million will go toward maintaining and replacing key roads, trails and bike paths.

Overall, the budget calls for spending close to $90 million to tackle the homeless issue.

“That's why we will continue to invest in new affordable housing  and the equitable housing initiative next year,” said Durkan.

The budget calls for providing 2,300 emergency shelter beds. It also calls for continued investment in affordable housing and the Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot, and continued investment in the 2,500 affordable housing units expected from 2018-2021.

The proposal also carries over this year's allocation of $1.3 million for a safe drug-consumption site into 2019. Seattle, which is partnering with King County on this program, has yet to designate a site.

Reacing to the mayor's budget proposal, Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said, “We have the same priorities, it's just about the outcomes we have with the money we have."

The City Council will begin work now to review and perhaps amend the proposal.