Seattle Courant

Mayor Nickels Announces $13.3 Million in Budget Cuts

Mayor Greg Nickels press conference Apr. 17, 2009. Photo by Keith Vance
By Keith Vance
April 17, 2009 07:04PM

“I’m not going to get into the real details,” Nickels said during the news conference. There will be “many different cuts in a lot of different areas.”

Indeed.

So when the news conference ended, Nickels staff members herded the press into a meeting room to get the “real details.” While everyone tried to make sense of the nine pages of line-item cuts and cryptic codes, Dwight Dively, the city’s budget director, and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis answered questions.

The mayor’s plan goes something like this ... after taking $5 million from the rainy day fund – which has about $30 million in it now – and by using money left over from the 2008 budget, Nickels still had to cut more than $13 million from the general fund to balance the budget.

The way it shakes out is that the deepest cuts will be felt in transportation, parks and libraries. The Seattle Dept. of Transportation budget takes the biggest hit with a 5.4 percent reduction, or $2.2 million. The parks department says goodbye to $2 million, and libraries lose about $1 million.

A big chuck of the library savings, $650,000, will come from shutting down the entire library system for a week this summer.

And in terms of layoffs, Nickels will eliminate 59 city jobs scattered across several departments, about half of those are currently vacant and will simply remain unfilled. And perhaps since it’s best to fire people on Friday, as well as release bad news, the 30 or so employees being laid off, were notified today.

Councilmember Jean Godden said the mayor’s plan was “extremely prudent” and “quite modest.”

Deputy Mayor Ceis said that it’s because of their sound fiscal management that the cuts were not as deep as some other governments are facing. Olympia?

Councilmember Nick Licata – not known as a Nickels cheerleader – said that by preserving public safety and human services, “overall he did a good job.”

The library cuts, he said, were larger than expected, and Licata questioned the wisdom of some the transportation reductions that he said are only necessary because Nickels has tied up a bunch of money for the controversial Mercer Street project.

The mayor’s staff will brief the City Council on Monday about the budget cuts, and there’s a meeting scheduled on Wed. at 5:30 p.m. for public comment.

There’s no vote needed to balance this year’s budget, it’s up to the mayor. But that’s not the case with the 2010 budget, which is expected to be about $40 million short. And so this Fall, Nickels will be presenting the City Council with a proposal on how to balance next year's budget.