Federal budget cuts are hitting home for Seattle. Roughly $2,605,000 is included in the proposed 2014 Seattle budget to “backfill” lost federal and state funding. Most of the federal and state cuts affect ongoing departmental expenditures, not one-time costs.
It could get tough for the city to continuing replacing the lost funds in the long-term, according to a City Council staffer who briefed the Budget Committee on Wednesday,
Among city departments, Human Services is the biggest loser of state and federal dollars. About $1.2 million in state and federal funding is slated to disappear from the department’s budget in 2014. The money pays for senior services, farm-to-table programs, community development grants and initiatives that help young people earn GEDs and high school diplomas. The proposed city budget also sets aside $525,000 to cover additional Human Services cuts that could take place next year.
“It is worth considering that, to the extent that federal and state money is going to be waning over time,” staffer Ben Noble said. “The issues of the sequester and just overall federal funding diminish the city’s ability to sustain backfilling each and every year.”
The sequester is the approximately $1.2 trillion dollars in automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts that began earlier this year. The cuts are scheduled to take place annually through 2021, with the next round happening in January.
Councilmember Nick Licata asked if the state and federal cuts affecting Seattle tend to cover one-time or ongoing costs. “Most of these cases are ongoing,” Noble said. Later in the committee meeting, he said that as time goes on, shifting funds within the city budget to cover the lost money means “looking at tradeoffs all over the city’s investments.”
Human Services isn’t the only city department with federal and state dollars on the chopping block in 2014. The Office of Sustainability and Environment is set to lose $331,000, the Parks Department $330,000, Department of Transportation $150,000 and the Police Department $64,000. The proposed 2014 city budget totals $4.4 billion.
Budget Committee Chair Tim Burgess said he thinks the city should be cautious adopting budget items that replace the funds. He said, “If they are adopted without any research and they do become a part of the base budget, going forward when we hook this hose up to the hydrant, it’s going to have a lot of volume in it.”