Seattle preserves services, but may lay off 82 workers

Sep 26, 2011

Big budget cuts loom from the state and federal governments, but some city and county leaders say their situation is more stable. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn presented an annual budget that cuts about 2 percent from the city’s general fund.

Several agencies are merging in Seattle, which provides savings. And nearly $6 million in savings comes from negotiating a deal that allows the city to keep using the King County Jail, instead of having to build a new one.  Still, layoffs are likely for as many as 82 city workers.

"I don’t want to sugar coat the challenges we face," said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

Services kept

He unveiled a budget that preserves current services people notice the most – such as libraries and swimming pools. Police staffing stays about the same. Community Centers will remain open, although hours will be cut at some that are used less.

The layoffs are largely in administrative jobs, particularly in the Department of Neighborhoods and Department of Transportation. McGinn says his priorities include: Youth and education, jobs and job-training, and the poor.

"We will protect the vulnerable, by maintaining our commitment to human services," he said.

McGinn won praise from activists, such as Julia Sterkovsky, executive director of the Seattle Human Services Coalition. She says recent cuts from the state and federal governments have been huge.

"We are seeing problems meeting the needs in community health clinics, shelters are full, we have more people using food banks than ever before, more programs involving youth at risk are being cut," Sterkovsky said.

The city’s not able to fill the gap, but at least it’s not adding to the woes.

King County budget

Meanwhile, King County Executive Dow Constantine is proposing to restore about $1 million for human services, out of about $26 million that has been cut in recent years. The overall county budget proposes no cuts (and no growth).

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