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McGinn budget: Hard times mean less service, paying more at every turn

Mayor Mike McGinn says that, despite other cuts, his plan will preserve firefighter positions and even provide for some extra police officers.

Mayor Mike McGinn talks to reporters in May.

Mayor Mike McGinn talks to reporters in May. Crosscut photo

Perhaps to emphasize the positive, Mayor Mike McGinn chose the Rainier Beach Community Center as the venue to announce his plan to cover the city of Seattle’s expected $67 million budget deficit in 2011.

While presenting his first ever biennial budget Monday (Sept. 27), he made a point of confirming plans to renovate the community center at a cost of $20 million — funds were approved last year — a project that will require a two-year closure of the center and is expected to be complete in 2013.

Meanwhile, other community centers will see their hours of operation reduced to save money. Seven of the city’s 20 neighborhood service centers will be closed, if the City Council adopts the mayor's budget proposals. The library system will reduce its budget by 8.5 percent through management changes, preserving its current hours of operation.

“Faced with the daunting challenge of closing a $67 million shortfall in the general fund and addressing the financial realities in other city funds, I had to make difficult but necessary decisions,” McGinn said. “My goal was to develop a sustainable budget that doesn’t rely on general tax increases and preserves services as much as possible. I met that goal but it is not without consequences.”

Central to the mayor’s plan is the elimination of 294 city jobs, or 2.67 percent of the city’s work force. Of those 294 positions, 80 are already vacant. Sixty-four of those positions are considered “senior level.” The city will also eliminate or reduce most cost-of-living raises.

To increase revenue, utility rates will be raised, McGinn proposed. Fees for many city services will also be increased, as will parking rates.

The most striking change: Sunday parking would no longer be free.

McGinn’s budget for the city’s 2011 general fund is $888 million, $13.7 million less than the 2010 budget. Most of the general fund, or about 74 percent, pays for public safety, the arts, and recreation. The city’s overall budget is $3.9 billion; the vast majority (57 percent) of that goes toward utilities and transportation.

McGinn pointed out the city would not reduce the numbers of firefighters and actually increase its number of police officers.

The department hit hardest by the layoffs will be Parks and Recreation, which will shed 105 jobs; finance and administration will lose 33 jobs, Seattle Public Utilities 32 jobs (14 of them senior), the Department of Transportation 30 jobs (15 of them senior), and the Seattle Center 18.

After presenting his budget at the Rainier Community Center, McGinn delivered his proposal a few hours later to the City Council in Council chambers. The council will spend the next few months reviewing his plan, and the council must adopt a budget  no later than Dec. 2. By state law, the city is required to balance its budget.

Three public hearings will be held in the next month to gather input for the 2011 budget. The first will be held Wednesday at the Northgate Community Center Gym. The second will be held Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the Brockey Center at South Seattle Community College; and the third will convene Tuesday, Oct. 26, at Seattle City Hall. All hearings will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Among the reductions in recreation and community services that McGinn wants: Five community centers (Alki, Ballard, Laurelhurst, Queen Anne, and Green Lake) will have reduced operating hours; ten wading pools (South Park, East Queen Anne, Cal Anderson, Dahl, Delridge, Wallingford, Hiawatha, Bitter Lake, EC Hughes, and Sound View Parks) will be open three days a week; eight wading pools (Ravenna, Beacon Hill, Powell Barnett, Peppi’s Playground, View Ridge, Gilman, and Sandel Parks) will remain closed; seven Neighborhood Service Centers (West Seattle, Delridge, University District, Central District, Lake City, Southeast, and Ballard) will be closed.

Under the proposed budget, electricity rates will increase by 4.3 percent in 2011; solid waste rates will increase by 7.5 percent, water rates by 3.5 percent, and wastewater rates by 4 percent.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Sep 27, 10:14 p.m. Inappropriate

IF 300 JOBS REPRESENTS 3% OF THE WORK FORCE DOES THAT MEAN IN A CITY OF 500,000 THAT WE HAVE 10,000 CITY WORKERS? IS THAT HIGH OR LOW OR AVERAGE for a city of this size?

chapala21

Posted Mon, Sep 27, 10:17 p.m. Inappropriate

What other cities have $4 hour parking?

chapala21

Posted Mon, Sep 27, 10:33 p.m. Inappropriate

Hugo, it is my understanding that the Delridge, University District, Central District, Lake City, Rainier Valley, and Ballard Neighborhood Service Centers will remain open, while the centers in West Seattle, Queen Anne, Greenwood, Wallingford, Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, and Beacon Hill are being closed. All of the latter except West Seattle are limited-service. See page IV-38 of http://www.seattle.gov/financedepartment/11proposedbudget/documents/NEIGHBORHOODSANDDEVELOPMENT.pdf.

Speaking of which, thank you for the distillation. The entire proposed budget is a dense 3.5 MB PDF. This is why the media is still valuable, regardless of what many would have one believe.

Chapala, according to http://lbloom.net/xsea09.html, last year there were 11,180 employees for 563,347 people. No one seems to have compiled detailed figures for the country, but here is some information on Allehgeny County, Pennsylvania:
http://www.alleghenyinstitute.org/component/content/article/505-comparing-municipality-employee-counts.html
and New Mexico:
http://www.errorsofenchantment.com/2010/08/17/citycounty-government-workers-per-capita/

Both sites are run by fiscal conservatives, FWIW.

New York parking rates appear to peak at $3.75:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/prkintro.shtml

Posted Mon, Sep 27, 10:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Even more the reason not to shop downtown on Sundays or evenings! Meanwhile, nothing that I saw about collecting the $52 million (I think it was) in uncollected, overdue parking fine revenue!

bricsa

Posted Tue, Sep 28, 5:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Does anyone know how many Seattle street parking spaces have been eliminated over the past year or so? Between the bus bulbs on third avenue, the upcoming Bell Street Boulevard park, and the constant construction on one street or another, the city seems to have noticably fewer parking spaces on the street than it used to. And each of these spaces were generating honest income for Seattle.

I wonder how much revenue the city makes annually per street parking space in the different areas of Seattle's "downtown" (Downtown core v. Pioneer Square v. Belltown, etc.) It will be a real chump's move if they decide to raise the hourly rates by the same amount for every area, I think.

Posted Tue, Sep 28, 6:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Let's see we rely on sales tax, downtown produces sales but we now rip off the shoppers with fees that discourage shopping...let's cut more assistant to the assistant to the assistant paper pushers and we want meaningful fees for peddlers on bikes...we actually traded one nut job for another....but hey I did not vote for him...

cwilkey

Posted Tue, Sep 28, 7:53 a.m. Inappropriate

$3.9 Billion (City budget) / 617,000 (City population)
= $6,321 per resident

That's a lot to pay for a city that can't even maintain roads.

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Sep 28, 2:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Mayor McGinn's parking meter increases will be extremely detrimental to Seattle's economy, especially in and near the downtown areas. I spend most of my weekends in Belltown, so I know what I am talking about.

If the meter time is increased to $4.00/hour,until 8:00pm 6 days/week and from 11-6pm on Sundays, this will only keep shoppers and diners away as they will go to the malls and other areas where the parking is cheaper,if not free. The restaurants will greatly suffer as very few are willing to pay $4.00/hr to park for 2 hours for a meal or happy hour. For many folks, $4.00/hr can make up 1/2 to 1/3 of their hourly wages. Also entertainment venues like the small theaters, and Cinerama will lose patrons.

Yes, some folks will go and pay for parking at private lots, which will only increase their rates because of higher demand and taxes.

The downtown area may become a ghost town after business hours with only the extremely poor, the very well off, hapless tourists off the cruise ships, and the workers who are paid retail and wait-staff wages.

The monies are going to have to come from somewhere to make up for the imbalances, but turning to the parking meters for revenue is a very poor decision, and Seattle will lose more on the parking meter monies, sales tax, visitors and residents, than it will gain on the proposed increased revenue schemes.

Cutered

Posted Tue, Sep 28, 5:59 p.m. Inappropriate

If $4.00/hr is one half of your hourly wage then it is probably also difficult to own and maintain a car that you will park in the parking spaces. With that being said I suspect that many people who drive and park in metered areas (and already pay high rates for parking if you ask me) will continue to do so out of convenience, or necessity. Family trips (by car) to the Science Center will require parking there and only there whether it costs $2.50, $3.00 or $4,00 an hour.

Also realize that some people will simply take transit to visit downtown, which will not reduce the number of shoppers there. Finally even if some people elect not to drive to metered areas because of cost, which almost certainly will happen, those vacated parking spaces will be likely replaced by people who hated driving to downtown because of a lack of parking as well as new residents as the region's population increases and vehicle owners who choose to park on the street instead of in garages and lots.

While the last one won't replace "lost" shoppers, it would reduce demand for parking garages, which are businesses that detract from urban, pedestrian environments. A reduction in parking lots could make downtown (and other areas) more dynamic, vital and "business oriented" if replaced by residencies or new business that attract more shoppers. Indeed, this parking meter could be work positively as social engineering by promoting density.

While i can't predict exactly how a meter increase would impact business or tax revenues, it is unlikely to have a bad impact on businesses in these areas for the reasons above, and may have a positive impact on the city as a whole through increased revenues at meters (and maybe metro). Finally, the actual returns at the parking meters will determine whether people are still coming to metered areas and the prices are reasonable. If not they can always be lowered.

Posted Tue, Sep 28, 9:55 p.m. Inappropriate

With a $4.00 per hour meter rate and an expansion to 8pm for rate hours, I think that this will add $6.00-$8.00 to the cost of going to:

- 7:00 shows at the Cinerama (on 4th Avenue)
- Live music shows at the Showbox (on First) or the Moore (on Third)
- Dinner at any downtown restaurant that isn't part of a recent hi-rise structure
- First Thursday Gallery Art Walks in Pioneer Square
- Etc., etc.

Adding $6.00 - $8.00 to the cost of an evening's entertainment is not going to encourage repeat business when there are other neigborhoods and malls that have free parking.

And for weekend group events - such as meeting a few friends to catch a movie, or a concert, or a college football game at a sports bar - everything is multiplied unless everyone is able to conveniently carpool or trasit to the event site.

I don't see how this meter scheme will be anything but a significant disincentive for downtown gatherings. And that will seriously impact a lot of downtown businesses.

Posted Wed, Sep 29, 7:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Not to mention that much of the public transit (between downton and the suburbs, especially) before and after commuter hours is rather limited, and may require a transfer or two as the express busses will be out of service.

Cutered

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