It’s been a busy week in the City budget. On Wednesday, the Council met as the Budget Committee to hold its second public hearing on the 2018 budget.
On Tuesday, as Chair of the Council’s Budget Committee, I released an initial proposed balancing package for the City budget from among the proposals introduced by Councilmembers. A total of 143 options to amend the Mayor’s proposed 2018 budget were discussed during Budget Committee during last week’s Budget Committee meetings. Proposed additions totaled $30 million, with only roughly $4 million in General Fund available. For this reason, my proposed balancing package left many important priorities unfunded.
In order to fund more of the Council’s priority investments during this homelessness state of emergency, I have included in my initial proposed balancing package the proposed HOMES tax. The HOMES tax would use a tax on businesses with gross receipts above $5 million a year. The City administered a similar tax based upon employee hours worked from 2006 until 2009 to fund transportation investments. This new revenue source strives to address the most immediate needs of our City, especially for the many people in our City who not only are not benefiting from Seattle’s economic growth, but are experiencing harm as a result of that growth. Mayor Burgess’ proposed budget recognizes that Seattle’s economic growth has contributed to homelessness. Page two of the 2018 Proposed Budget Executive Summary document reads:
“Despite the economic prosperity driving growth in the City’s revenues, and in part because of it, Seattle is facing a homelessness crisis of unprecedented proportions.”
This is, for me, the foundation of the HOMES tax — a recognition that while some benefit from growth and prosperity, others not only do not benefit, but they suffer. With this in mind, I think restoration of the employee hours tax on some segment of businesses is fair. I’ve not settled on a) the tax eligibility threshold ($5 million, $8 million, and $10 million are all ideas) nor b) the size of tax to ensure a fair and truly progressive tax.
If the HOMES tax is not approved by the Council, here are some of the investments that may not receive funding in 2018:
- $3,300,000 for emergency shelter services
- $2,750,000 for permanent supportive housing services
- $1,000,000 for expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program
- $588,000 for transitional housing for homeless foster youth
- $550,000 to support a safe consumptions site
- $500,000 for the Homeless Youth Opportunity Center and Housing Project
- $400,000 for homeless child care programs
- $400,000 for flexible and mobile advocates to assist domestic violence and sexual assault (DVSA) survivors
- $400,000 for DVSA survivor advocacy
- $200,000 for emergency domestic violence (DV) shelter
- Funding for a prescriber at a Public Health facility
- Funding for a nurse position to provide services for encampments
- Funding for trash removal at homeless encampments.
By law, the budget must be balanced.
Next week Councilmembers can present additional or revised proposals to amend the budget at meetings scheduled for November 7 and 8. After that, as Chair I will develop a second, “revised” balancing package, for consideration at Budget Committee meetings scheduled for November 14/15, with a Full Council vote scheduled for November 20.
Individuals returning from incarceration and living with criminal history face significant barriers to accessing housing, employment, education, healthcare, and reconnecting to their communities. The earlier incarcerated individuals can start planning their reentry back into their community, the more successful they can be in regaining stability.
In 2015, the City Council passed Resolution 31637 to establish a Reentry Workgroup in order to strengthen the City’s efforts to assist reentry, reduce recidivism, and alleviate the negative impact of incarceration on individuals. The scope of work as defined by the resolution included an inventory of the City’s current work to help individuals with criminal history transition into stable housing and employment Identify where the City’s efforts would be strengthened by more effective coordination with other criminal justice agencies; the development of policies, ordinances, strategies, or programs the City can implement to facilitate reentry and remove unnecessary barriers to employment, housing, and other benefits; and an inventory and assessment of the City’s imposition and collections of fines and fees for criminal violations and infractions
- Every year about 1500 individuals are released to King County from DOC
- Every day about 100 individuals are released from jails throughout King County
- According to the Count US In Report, 50% of the outdoor homeless population in Seattle has criminal justice involvement, which is likely an undercount
- The population is racially disproportionate: Black individuals only comprise of 7% of the King County population, but account for 36% of the King County Jail population. Native Americans only comprise of 1% of the King County population, but account for 2.5% of the King County Jail population
- In Washington, 58% of the jail population have mental health treatment needs
- In Washington, 61% of those in jail have substance use needs
- Nationally, 40% of individuals of those in jail have a disability
- Once released from incarceration individuals face significant barriers to reentry. Data shows approximately 30-50% of individuals released from incarceration will recidivate within three years without appropriate supports.
One of the issues raised at the forum was the management of the jail contract. The City pays King County for the use of their jail, these costs are managed by the City Budget Office. The workgroup raised concerns that an office whose responsibilities primarily center around fiscal policy, financial planning, and budget-related functions, can give the appearance that the City is prioritizing financial efficiencies over ensuring that individuals that the City incarcerates are given sufficient support. Jails and prisons house vulnerable populations.
Another issue raised was how the City could better assist formerly incarcerated individuals to successfully re-enter society by increasing opportunities to join the workforce, specifically:
- Explore how City departments can work with the Department of Corrections (DOC) and community-led organizations to support active recruitment of individuals exiting DOC and jails to the City; and
- Consider how the City can incentivize the private sector to hire formerly incarcerated individuals; and
- Examine granting contracts to formerly incarcerated individuals through all relevant City Request for Proposal processes.
Still another important issue raised at the forum was the need for “Reentry Navigators,” individuals providing assistance to those both currently incarcerated and preparing for release and individuals already released from incarceration. Navigation is most successful when the navigators share similar backgrounds with the individuals they are supporting and are system-engaged.
Finally, the Native American population in prisons and jails is growing increasingly disproportionate to their presence in the general population. Native Americans are incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the national average rate of incarceration. In Seattle, Native Americans/Alaska Natives are seven times more likely to experience homelessness, more than any other racial group. We heard at the Lunch and Learn that in many conversations regarding race and the criminal justice, Native Americans are often left out. Next steps include development of strategies to ensure that that City investments in reentry programs will be culturally appropriate and effective for the Native American populations; and identification of organizations or government programs that are rooted in the Native American community that are providing or qualified to provide reentry services to the Native American population.
Check Out the South Park Resource Fair:
Sixteen City Departments will be in the Community Center Gym to share program information, let folks know about upcoming funding opportunities, and get the word out about city supported utility discount programs.
The Mobile Customer Service Center will be parked out front and there will be trainings offered all day about: Personal Safety, 911, and Tenants Rights.
Come for an hour or stay the whole time! Be one of the first in the door to receive a free tote bag.
When: 10:00 – 2:00p.m.
Where: South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Ave S
Childcare, light refreshments, and interpretation provided in Spanish and Vietnamese. Here’s a link to a Facebook post in English, Spanish and Vietnamese; additional details are below:
Trainings, Community Center Multi-Purpose Room:
10:30-11:00 am: Personal Safety: Learn about how to stay safe through awareness, avoidance and trusting your instincts.
11:15-11:45 am: What is the best way to call 911?: Tips for calling 911 and reporting crime.
12:30-1:00 pm: Fair Housing Rights: Learn about your rights in housing, new laws to protect renters, and how to report discrimination.
1:15-1:45 pm: Renting in Seattle: Learn about rental protection programs and how to report rental issues.
Green Seattle Day:
Join hundreds of volunteers planting thousands of plants in parks throughout the City. Green Seattle Day is one of the biggest tree planting events of the year.
When: 9:00am – 12:00pm
Where: All across D1
- Camp Long with Nature Consortium – SIGN UP HERE
- Duwamish Head Greenbelt – SIGN UP HERE
- Lincoln Park – SIGN UP HERE
- Me Kwa Mooks – SIGN UP HERE
- Westcrest Park with DIRTCorps – SIGN UP HERE
In an effort to help prevent flooding, SPU is encouraging customers to help keep storm drains clear of fallen leaves. Customers can set out extra leaves on their collection day for pick up during November. Extra yard waste must be in paper bags or in an extra container that contains only yard waste. You can read more here.