Select Committee on Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Move $637.8 Million Education Levy to Full Council

The Select Committee on Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy unanimously voted to advance to Full Council a proposed ordinance to continue the City of Seattle’s investments across the education spectrum. If approved, the levy will expand quality preschool classrooms, continue investments in K-12, and establish tuition subsidies and support for college or post-secondary job training. In addition, it sets aside funds for wraparound education and health services, such as four new student health centers, dedicated resources for students experiencing homelessness, and funding to grow teacher diversity in our classrooms.

The proposed ordinance will go before the full City Council on Monday, June 18 at 2:00 p.m.

At a GlanceThe proposed Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy would:

  • Expand access to preschool by nearly 1,000 children per year by the 2025-26 school year to serve a total of 15,000 three and four year olds;
  • Continue K-12 and community-based investments, including funding four new student health centers, students experiencing homelessness and increasing teacher diversity in our classrooms; and,
  • Create the Seattle Promise to allow public high school graduates to attend Seattle Colleges to obtain a college or postsecondary degree.

The proposed levy, totaling $637.8 million over seven years, dedicates 54 percent of the dollars toward preschool and early learning. Expanding access to high quality early learning is a research-proven strategy to help close the school-readiness gap. Over the span of the 7-year levy, Seattle will have served 15,000 children in preschool classrooms.

“The renewal and expansion of the education levy is an unrelenting commitment to ensure all of our children receive a quality education, have the resources to succeed, and graduate from high school with opportunities for college and career,” said Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle). “I want to thank our residents for their support in closing the opportunity gap in Seattle schools and creating more equitable communities. When our students succeed, our communities thrive, and our economy prospers.”

“Supporting the educational achievement of all children is one of the single most important investments the City of Seattle can make. This renewed and enhanced levy represents critical and strategic investments that will transform the lives of Seattle’s children beginning with quality preschool and ending with college access and support. This levy also recognizes the impacts of our affordability challenges by providing resources to support the estimated 4,280 students in Seattle Public Schools experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), and co-chair of the FEPP Committee. “Our past levy investments have made a measurable difference in reducing the readiness and opportunity gap. This proposed levy continues many of those evidence-based investments, which means more of our kids will graduate and be prepared for post-secondary education with the skills necessary to take advantage of the jobs of tomorrow.”

Nearly 29 percent of the levy would go toward K-12 investments, improving graduation rates, especially for students who are impacted by the opportunity gap.

“As a father of three school-aged children, I know first-hand the importance of investments in early education and grade school classrooms” said Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) and co-chair of the FEPP Committee. “I feel proud that this levy represents a strong continuum for our students, from preschool through their 14th year, that it reflects feedback we heard from community members, and that it continues this levy’s history of investing in research and evidence based strategies to help our students succeed.”

“Investing in our earliest of learners — and the workforce that cares for them and teaches them — ensures we have a resilient economy, encourages equity through closing opportunity gaps and promotes healthy communities,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “Families across this City are experiencing long waitlists, long commute times and increasingly expensive childcare.  Through this levy, we increase the number of better trained educators for our children ages 0-3, investing in the long-term health and stability of our community.”

Health programs would account for 11 percent. The final six percent would go to the Seattle Promise, which proposes tuition assistance to graduating Seattle students attending local community colleges for the first two years.

Seattle first passed a seven-year education levy in 1990. It was renewed again in 1997, 2004 and 2011. In 2014, voters also approved a four-year preschool program levy. History of education levies in Seattle. The Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy combines the traditional education levy with the preschool levy, and expands it.

Seattle residents living in a median-priced home pay $136 per year for the two existing levies. With this new levy, those same residents will pay $248 per year.  Low-income seniors, people with disabilities and veterans will be eligible for exemptions.

The passage of this levy follows robust community engagement. The levy was first considered in the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans and Education Committee in February. Following, the Select Committee on FEPP held six committee meetings, beginning on March 26, and two public hearings.

To download a full resolution PDF of the infographic, click here.

 

Seattle Council Passes Tax on Business to Help Address Homelessness

Following more than five months of deliberation, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance related to taxation, intended to help address homelessness.  The amended proposal establishes an annual tax of $275 per full time employee on the City’s largest businesses, those with revenues of more than $20 million  (about 3% of all businesses). The measure would generate an estimated $47 million annually and end on December 31, 2023.

The ordinance passed by a unanimous vote, with all nine councilmembers supporting it.

Selected highlights of the amended ordinance include:

Exempt Seattle’s small and medium-sized businesses, only applying to those with at least $20 million or more annually in taxable gross receipts as measured under the City’s existing Business & Occupation tax;

  • Apply only to the City’s approximately 585 largest businesses, or approximately 3% of all Seattle businesses;
  • Require large businesses to pay $275 per full-time equivalent employee working 1,920 hours per year (or about $0.14 per hour);
  • Include an evaluation of the economic impacts, and an independent oversight committee; and,
  • Exempt healthcare providers that provide at least 25% of their services to patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid as well as all hospitals.

Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2 – South Seattle), said, “In every policy or fiscal decision we make, we have to look at the impact on jobs. Our goal is to have a successful and vibrant business community–one of the best in the country–and at the same time, assist our most vulnerable and strategically invest in affordable housing. One does not exclude the other. Our investment strategy must balance these objectives without demonizing advocates or businesses. Today, we have reached a compromise that accomplishes this goal.”

Harrell continued:  “I did not support the spending plan, because our strategy must leverage the expertise and resources in real estate, software applications and other areas to make sure we gain the trust of the public in how we invest funds from this new revenue stream. This legislation is currently designed for a finite period to address the affordability and homelessness crisis. How we spend the money becomes critically important–residents, members of our business community and advocates should be afforded the opportunity to weigh in.”

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia), a co-sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee said, “Since Seattle declared a state of emergency around the homelessness crisis, people have told us they want to see action, action that means people out of tents and in safer, healthier spaces, and cleanup of the public spaces in our neighborhoods. They also want more state and local funds for mental health and behavioral health improvements. This tax contributes toward the long-term solution of affordable housing, while giving immediate attention and resources to fund shelter services, so those living on the streets tonight can find a dry, warm and safe place to stay. I’m pleased my council colleagues also agreed to exempt hospitals and non-profits from this tax, recognizing the vital work they do in our community serving those on Medicare, Medicaid, and other vulnerable populations.”

Councilmeber Rob Johnson (District 4 – North Seattle), and a co-sponsor of the legislation said, “Any solution to help address our homelessness crisis must produce immediate results and protect the long term economic health of the city. Today’s action creates more affordable housing, addresses immediate needs of those living unsheltered and has a five-year sunset so we can effectively measure our efforts. I want to thank my council colleagues for this collaborative effort and for the engagement of non-profit organizations, faith and civic leaders, businesses, labor, affordable housing developers and community members.”

Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5 – North Seattle), and a co-sponsor of the legislation said, “I want to see results from this tax, which means fewer people living on the streets and more people in shelters and permanent housing. Now it is time for regional partners and the federal government to join Seattle in taking bold actions to address homelessness.”    

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Pos. 8 – Citywide), said, “Today, we took an initial step forward to reduce homelessness, build safer communities and toward a City that allows people who work in Seattle to afford to live in Seattle.  We have a homelessness and housing affordability crisis in Seattle, our shelters are at capacity and there is not enough affordable housing for folks to move into. Today’s progressive tax proposal and corresponding spending plan provides a significant down payment toward the housing our community needs. Our City is growing rapidly, and we must respond with urgency, compassion and leadership.  I look forward to continued collaboration with the community and my council colleagues to ensure we build more affordable, sustainable, and equitable housing for our city.”

With no state income tax, Washington is routinely ranked as having the most regressive tax structure in the nation.  Earlier this year, property taxes were dedicated by state lawmakers to fund education shortfalls; a B&O tax would require voter approval and spread the burden across all industries, including small business.  Other taxation options such as a tax on utilities would adversely affect rate payers, many who are on fixed incomes.

The legislation will take effect in January 2019.

 

Johnson Releases Draft Framework to Update to the City’s Tree Ordinance

Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) released a draft framework for updates to the City’s Tree Ordinance today, the first update in a decade, to proactively manage and steward Seattle’s urban forest.

The framework will encourage more tree preservation and planting through incentives and fees. The framework would also gather better data by requiring permits to remove trees and increase the resources to plant new trees.

“It’s vital to recognize the value of Seattle’s urban forest on Arbor Day and every day.  Our city’s trees are essential infrastructure that provide habitat, prepare for more extreme weather events due to climate change, and improve public health through cleaner air, water, and privacy,” said Councilmember Johnson.  “Our trees are governed by nine different city departments. As a city, we need to update how we manage our urban forest by streamlining the process and adding transparency.”

In 2007, Seattle established a 30 percent canopy cover goal by 2037. Seattle is currently at 28 percent canopy cover by latest estimates and analysis conducted in 2016.

“The Emerald City shouldn’t lose sight of the 30 percent canopy cover goal, and should even exceed it, because we are a city rooted in environmental leadership,” continued Johnson. “It is paramount that this goal be advanced under the lens of environmental equity. If the City reaches this goal but wealthier and whiter neighborhoods continue to disproportionately experience the benefits of trees when compared to communities of color and low-income neighborhoods, then we have not done our job. We need to ensure all communities are clean, healthy and resilient.”

Johnson’s framework proposes to alter the City’s Tree Protection Ordinance and includes these key components:

  • Increase the number of trees that require a permit for removal. The framework recognizes the value mature trees and certain species bring to our urban forests.
  • Require trees to be replaced when cut down, or pay a fee in lieu of planting. Fees collected will be used toward tree planting programs.
  • Create more incentives to encourage preservation of existing trees.
  • Establish a one-stop portal for residents to get permits, report on, and receive updates about all tree-related issues, including removing hazardous trees, rules about trees on private property, and contact information for stewardship activities and answers to frequently asked questions.

Councilmember Johnson encourages the community to comment on the draft framework over the coming months. The first discussion on the draft framework will take place May 16 during a Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee meeting.

On Arbor Day, Saturday (April 28), the city encourages all residents to nurture existing trees and ensure younger trees reach maturity. We rely on the actions of private residents to care for trees on their property and within their community.

If you want to help Seattle reach and exceed its tree canopy goal, learn more about Trees for Neighborhoods, which provides free trees for Seattle residents to plant in their yards, and learn more about becoming a Tree Ambassador, a program that empowers Seattle residents to be local leaders in urban forest stewardship.

For more ways to get involved, visit http://www.seattle.gov/trees/getInvolved.htm

View an infographic of proposed tree canopy framework

 

 

Councilmember Johnson on Council’s Passage of Efficient, Flexible Approach to Parking

Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle), Chair of the Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee, issued the following statement following a vote of 7-1 in support of Council Bill 119221, a measure intended to update and improve off-street parking regulations in Seattle:

“We know that an over supply of cheap parking has a negative impact on Seattle – it increases driving and traffic congestion, increases our carbon footprint, and makes housing more expensive. Taking a smarter approach to our parking strategies, as we do through CB 119221, an important step is to ensure that we are creating not only a more vibrant city, but a city that works for everyone as we grow.  The legislation allows for flexible use parking, so that existing and new parking spaces can be shared and used by more people. It eliminates parking requirements for affordable housing units (up to 80% Area Median Income) so that our affordable housing partners can build more housing, and requires unbundling of parking in leases so people who do not own a car will not be required to pay for parking spaces they do not use.”

“Seattle Council Bill 119221 aims to ensure that only drivers will have to pay for parking, which seems fair,” said Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking. “People who cannot afford a car or choose not to own a car should not have to pay anything for parking. If drivers don’t pay for their parking, someone else has to pay for it, and that someone is everyone.  But a city where everyone happily pays for everyone else’s free parking is a fool’s paradise.”

“Increasing numbers of transit ridership and those who walk and bike coupled with growing options for shared mobility like Uber and Lyft are changing the transportation landscape.  We know that some Seattleites need drive their cars for many different reasons, but we want to build a city that supports transportation choices, too,” Johnson added.

“Along with our partners, we’re very pleased with the Council’s decision to implement this legislation,” said Chris Wierzbicki, Executive Director of Futurewise. “Shaping and trimming parking requirements in Seattle creates more equity in our society, knits together our urban fabric, encourages the use of transit and active transportation, and is a critical piece of the city’s goal to create more affordable housing.”

“This legislation is crucial for the battle against climate change,” said Andrew Kidde, an organizer with 350 Seattle. “It allows us to build our future city for people choosing transit, walking, and biking.”

Councilmembers’ Statement on School Bus Strike Tomorrow

Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Rob Johnson and Lorena González issued the following statement regarding the school bus driver strike set to begin tomorrow:

“The people who safely transport our kiddos in Seattle to public schools deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This must begin with a decent contract with First Student. We stand in solidarity with Teamsters Local 174 in their pursuit of health care benefits and retirement plans for Seattle school bus drivers that reflect our values as a city. When public dollars go to contract businesses, it is imperative that we ensure we are taking care of the people who take care of our kiddos and this means a higher standard for wages and benefits. We applaud the efforts of Local 174 to bring First Student up to par.

“We know this means some extra planning for parents. Here is some information to help parents plan for alternative ways to get their kids to school tomorrow. As you make your plans, please know the following resources are available to you:

  • Metro bus routes serve all public schools in Seattle. Click here to find which route will work best for you.
  • Consider participating in a Walking School Bus or Bike Train (a group of children walking or biking to school with one or more adults picking up students along the way). Contact Yvonne Carpenter with the Seattle School District for more information at ylcarpenter@seattleschools.org.
  • Contact your PTSA for other local school-specific plans.”