2017-2018 City Council Budget Process
On September 26, Mayor Murray will release his proposed 2017-8 City Budget. With that, the City Council will begin its biennial budget process. The Council will adopt a budget for 2017, and endorse a budget for 2018. The endorsed 2018 budget will serve as a baseline for next year’s budget discussions.
The Mayor is required under state law to submit a budget to the Council at least 90 days before the end of the year, and the Council is required to hold at least two public hearings, and pass the budget no later than 30 days before the end of the year. In addition, the Mayor will propose a 2017-2022 six year Capital Improvement Plan, to guide longer-term construction spending.
This year’s Council budget process, announced by Budget Committee Chair Councilmember Burgess at a Budget Committee meeting in May, includes a revised format and schedule. In brief, work will be frontloaded compared to previous years, and the Budget Chair’s proposed balancing package of cuts and additions to the Mayor’s proposed budget will be made public earlier, with additional time for consideration.
Here’s a summary of the process and timeline, followed by a brief comparison with the previous process:
- September 26: Mayor releases proposed budget
- September 29: City Budget Office overview of proposed budget
- October 6, 7, 10: Department Budget Discussions
- October 5, 18: Public hearings
- October 11: deadline for Councilmember requests to include issues in the Central Staff memos that will be used for the Budget Committee Deliberations
- October 17, 18, 19, 24: Budget Committee Deliberations, chance to debate merits of possible changes
- October 31: revenue update from City Budget Office
- November 2: Budget Chair’s Initial Balancing Package
- November 9/10: Discussion of Chair’s Initial Balancing Package
- November 15-16: Budget Committee Discussion and Vote on Chair’s Revised Balancing Package
- November 21: Budget Committee vote, Full Council adoption of budget
Here are some of the differences from the Council budget processes of recent years, as a reference point for those who been involved:
First of all, the stage of the budget process in previous years referred to as “Department Presentations” is eliminated. In previous years, Department Presentations took place after the City Budget Office overview, and didn’t provide much detail. Instead, department directors will participate with Council Central Staff in the new stage of the budget process called “Department Budget Discussions,” so Councilmembers will retain the ability to direct questions to department directors in open session. The Department Budget Discussions will also include items identified by Council Central Staff, which is similar to the stage of the budget process in previous years, commonly referred to as “Issue Identification.”
The next set of meetings, called “Budget Committee Deliberations,” will continue Central Staff issue identification; it is also in this stage of the process that Councilmembers will also bring forward their own specific issues and proposals.
The October 11 deadline for Councilmember requests (see above) is earlier than previous years’ late October deadline. However, this year a single Councilmember can bring issues forward during the budget process; in previous years, three Councilmembers needed to sponsor a proposal for it to appear on the agenda.
If Councilmembers identify additional items after the October 11 deadline, they can still discuss those additional items during the October 17-19 Budget Committee Deliberations, but they won’t be included in the Central Staff memos.
The Budget Chair’s initial balancing package of cuts and additions to the Mayor’s proposed budget will arrive two and a half weeks earlier than in previous years. Discussion will take place a week later, on November 9/10; this allows for greater transparency and discussion of the Budget Chair’s proposal than in previous years. Still, any proposals to change the balancing package will need sponsorship from at least three Councilmembers. This is akin to the three-sponsor requirement of “Round 1” in previous years. As in Round 1, no votes will take place.
The final step will be that Chair will present a revised balancing package at the meeting on November 15/16; this is a new formal step. A majority of Councilmembers will be needed to 1) amend the agenda to consider any new proposal, and 2) to then approve any changes. This is similar to requirements in “Round 2” in previous years. Any changes proposed by Councilmembers will need to balance cuts with increases.
A final Council vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for November 21.