Seattle Mayor unveils new $7.8 billion budget proposal, addresses SPD issues

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell unveiled his new proposal for a $7.8 billion budget Tuesday afternoon.

The budget is 579 pages long but among the dizzying array of proposals, the Mayor says city human service workers, like drug counselors and childcare providers, are vastly underpaid, and he wants to give them a big raise.

A Seattle University study revealed that nonprofit human services workers in our state make 37% less than workers in for-profit industries.

The Mayor’s other priorities include more affordable housing and more tools for police to fight crime.

He wants to spend 30% more on public safety, police oversight, and funding for the controversial gun shot-spotter technology, alerting police to shooting locations, even though the city council threw it out of the last budget.

Another $334 million would go to affordable housing, a 32% increase over the last budget.

The Mayor then asked for applause for funding a highrise to bring people who have been chronically homeless to permanent housing.

The Mayor also had a direct message for Seattle Police Department officers, regarding the controversial racist and insensitive comments made in recent recordings.

“Sadly we’ve seen that trust fractured through recent events, where officers have disrespected or dehumanized our neighbors. Those comments make me incredibly sad and incredibly disappointed. So to our police officers, I join communities across Seattle saying ‘You’re better than that!’ We expect you to be. We demand that you be,” said Mayor Harrell.

His comments follow a Seattle police officer placed on leave after audio surfaced last Friday of the officer’s racist and mocking remarks directed at his Chinese-American neighbor.

Before that, body cam video captured high-profile Seattle Police Officer Daniel Auderer devaluing the life of a young woman, who had just been struck and killed by a fellow officer. The audio recorded him laughing and joking following the death of 23-year-old grad student Jaahnavi Kandula.

Mayor Harrell got applause when he announced the SPD has 150 to 200 new applications to fill vacant officer spots. And his public safety budget includes more officer oversight in addition to adding $20 million to the SPD budget.

According to SPD, the funds would:

  • Reallocate $6.3 million for overtime. “This change provides funding for overtime to staff patrol shifts, investigative functions, and special events,” said SPD.
  • Reinvest $1.8 million of SPD salary savings into a “new crime prevention pilot to leverage technology in areas hardest hit by gun violence. Funding is for implementing automatic license plate readers, CCTV cameras, and acoustic gunshot locator systems to deter criminal behavior, assist in evidence retrieval, and hold offenders accountable,” said SPD.”

“With the investments in this budget proposal, we can work together to advance our shared ‘One Seattle’ vision and an agenda that will inspire the best in our city and keep us moving forward,” said SPD.

Mayor Harrell posted this statement regarding the budget proposal on social media Tuesday evening:

Today, I announced my 2024 #OneSeattle budget proposal at Plymouth Housing’s Blake House – part of the first affordable housing high-rise in Seattle in 50 years. This proposal doubles down on the priorities that matter for our city and invests in a better tomorrow for Seattle.

We need to double down where we’re seeing progress on our approach to the crisis of homelessness, building more Blake Houses. That’s why this budget makes a $334 million investment in affordable housing – a 32% increase from last year.

Our budget proposal also doubles down on safety, maintaining and expanding the critical investments we need to make Seattle safe for everyone, including $26.5 million to the new Community-Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) department to diversify emergency responses.

We continue to address the fentanyl and synthetic drug crisis with urgency and compassion. This budget invests $7 million towards treatment centers, including a post-overdose facility to bring people in their moment of need to a place where they can recover and access services.

To support human service providers like those at Blake House working to support our most vulnerable neighbors, our budget also includes $23 million investment to increase their wages. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s necessary to deliver sustainable progress.

Our budget also invests in our continued economic recovery and resiliency, including $15 million towards our Downtown Activation Plan and support for the small businesses that weave together people, jobs, and vibrancy in our city center.

We wouldn’t be the Emerald City without a budget that reflects our commitment to a healthy climate. Our budget includes $20.1 million for needed Green New Deal programs, expands the Trees for Neighborhoods program, and evaluates siting our own One Seattle Tree Nursery. - Mayor Harrell