by Lauryn Bray
On Monday, Nov. 21, after weeks of public hearings and public meetings, the City Council finalized amendments to the 2023–2024 budget, following Mayor Bruce Harrell’s initial proposal at the end of September. The council’s budget amendments allocate funding for projects focused on affordable housing, homelessness, equitable development, economic reliance, the Green New Deal, as well as transportation and safe streets. The new budget also carves out money for programs related to health, youth, education, arts, and culture, including $4 million for mental health services in schools in response to the demand for more mental health providers in schools by students impacted by gun violence.
Less than three weeks ago, the City received a dire economic forecast, projecting a net $64 million decrease in the Real Estate Excise Tax, a net $9.4 million decrease in the General Fund, and a net $4.5 million decrease in Sweetened Beverage Tax revenues over the biennium. Despite all of this, this isn’t just an anti-austerity budget — it is balanced and takes a thoughtful approach to sustainability.
“We are asking for a $253 million affordable housing budget including specific funds that will have a positive impact for South Seattle, like the $18 million for the JumpStart Community Self-Determination Fund to remove barriers and support capacity building, land acquisition, and affordable housing development for community organizations that are newer to development,” explained Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in an interview with the Emerald. “We have also included $7 million in JumpStart homeownership funds, to specifically support permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for communities that have been impacted by past discriminatory policies like redlining and race-restrictive covenants.”
The most expensive investments are for affordable housing and equitable development projects, including “over $20 million in JumpStart Equitable Development Initiative investments to support community-driven projects in communities at risk of displacement.” According to Mosqueda, these investments will “advance economic opportunity, prevent displacement, and meet community needs like housing, childcare, space for small business, cultural and community space.”
Money from this fund has already supported projects such as the African Woman Business Alliance in southeast Seattle, the Black and Tan Hall in Hillman City, the Duwamish Longhouse of the Duwamish Valley Tribal Services, the Ethiopian Village in southeast Seattle, and the Flipino Community of Seattle’s Innovation Learning Center in southeast Seattle.
Also under the umbrella of equitable development, the amended budget includes $250,000 in funding to establish Community Investment Trusts. Councilmember Tammy J. Morales said in an interview with the Emerald, “We’re working with organizations to support the development of a program that allows neighbors to invest in commercial real estate so that projects are community-owned rather than owned by a corporation, for example.”
The amendments also mention a series of one-time investments into projects promoting economic reliance as the council works towards finalizing a long-term JumpStart Economic Resilience Plan for 2024 and beyond. These investments include $33 million from JumpStart each year for Economic Revitalization projects, $7 million in 2023 for commercial affordability, $5 million for childcare provider wages, $2.75 million in 2023 for small business development capital, and more.
Another amendment to the budget includes funding for transportation: $8 million in Vision Zero projects including Rainier Avenue South safety improvements, traffic calming on Seward Park South, and additional street safety improvements on South Holgate, as well as in Columbia City and Hillman City. There is also funding to advance the Georgetown to South Park Trail, provide safe routes to schools for Washington Middle School, and improve sidewalks on South Holgate, Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Renton Avenue South, and Rainier Avenue South. Additionally included are funding for the Rainier Avenue South Route 7 Rapid Ride bus project and for walking/biking improvements to help people get to the transit center and light rail station at Rainier Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
While many of the proposed amendments were able to wiggle their way into the final package, others did not. Unfortunately, funding to support Morales’ efforts to create a municipal housing program within the city did not make it into the final budget, and she and other councilmembers must wait until the fall of 2024 until to try again. However, in addition to the $250,000 for Community Investment Trusts, a huge victory for Morales is the $1.5 million in funding for the Northwest Abortion Access Fund to support abortion care for local patients and people seeking care from out of state.
In order for an amendment to be added to the budget, it must receive at least five votes, and because none of them are included in the budget, the council must vote on each amendment individually. Overall, the council voted on a total of 195 amendments.
On Monday, Nov. 28, the select budget committee will vote on the final budget package, and on Tuesday, there will be another voting on the budget as a full council.
Lauryn Bray is a writer and reporter for the South Seattle Emerald. She has a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from CUNY Hunter College. She is from Sacramento, California, and has been living in King County since June 2022.
📸 Featured Image: Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda during a Select Budget Committee session on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot from Seattle Channel.)
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