Seattle Courant

Mayor Nickels Proposes Millions in Budget Cuts

By Keith Vance
April 13, 2009 08:04PM

Under the mayor’s current plan, the biggest losers will be libraries, Seattle Center, urban forests and Seattle Dept. of Transportation. While SDOT takes the brunt of the REET cuts, the department relies less on REET revenue than the library does.

When deciding what and where to cut, Dively said the mayor wants to continue with projects that are already underway and to not stop or slow them down. He said that Nickels also sought to preserve the city’s current assets, such as buildings, machinery and infrastructure. Lastly, Dively said Mayor Nickels would like keep some of the “race and social justice” programs for the “less-advantaged” Seattleites.

The cuts discussed today are limited to the real estate excise tax revenue portion of each agency and departmental budget. For instance, today’s presentation showed that the Seattle Public Library budget will lose $952,000 of its REET funding. The library system’s total budget is about $50 million. Programs to restore and maintain urban forests are looking at losing more than $1.5 million of their REET revenue and SDOT more than $4 million.

“I think this is a reasonable proposal,” Councilmember Jan Drago said. “We’re in a very good situation,” she said referring to the wisdom of past investments in infrastructure and maintenance. According to a City Council central staffer, the reason the library system is taking a capital budget hit is partially because many of the libraries are rather new and require less upkeep.

About twelve people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. Most speakers were there to support library funding, and a couple of folks pleaded for money to help the homeless.

“You should be directing your comments to Mayor Nickels as well,” Councilmember Tim Burgess said to the people opposing today’s cuts.

At the meeting’s outset Councilmember and Budget Committee Chair Jean Godden made a point of noting that it’s up to Mayor Nickels to decide what to cut from this year’s budget. The mayor has no legal obligation to even consult with the City Council, but it is prudent for him to do so.

However, regarding the 2010 budget, Nickels will be presenting his cuts to the City Council for approval this Fall.