Last week, Mayor Ed Murray sent the Seattle City Council a proposed funding plan to finance the hiring of 200 new police officers and investments in the City’s 911 call center.
“Residents, businesses, and experts agree that we must increase investments in our police department, hire additional officers, and enhance community engagement,” says Mayor Murray.
Mayor Murray’s proposal calls for an addition of 200 officers by the end of 2019, expanding the Seattle Police Department to the highest staff level in the history of the department.
According to the Office of the Mayor, this level of expansion is in line with the police staffing study conducted by Berkshire Advisors.
“This proposal is the best mechanism remaining to fund urgently needed expansion of the police force to match Seattle’s vigorous population growth and to bring our staffing levels closer to the norms of big cities in the U.S.,” says Cindy Pierce, President of the Neighborhood Safety Alliance.
Mayor Murray plans to expand the SPD with funds financed through reprioritizing existing resources, identifying efficiencies and by increasing selected fees and taxes on Seattle businesses.
Mike Stewart, Executive Director of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, agrees with the Mayor’s plans. “We look forward to engaging with the Seattle City Council on this important step forward,” says Stewart.
Mayor Murray has estimated that the cost of the 200 additional officers, improving the 911 call center and other information technology investments will cost $37 million per year.
The Mayor is proposing to raise $14 million in new revenues and fund the remaining $23 million from existing resources. Roughly half of the General Fund resources has already been approved by Council for hiring additional police officers.
The proposed increases in taxes and fees on Seattle businesses include:
- 3.2 percent increase over two years in the existing Business and Occupation (B&O) tax rates, which have not risen since 1991, generating $8.4 million per year. A retail business with $1 million in revenues would pay an additional $70 a year.
- Restructuring and increasing the City’s Business License fee, with fees increasing in five steps depending on the size of the business, generating $5.8 million per year. The smallest businesses would see a license fee increase of $25 a year.
According to the Mayor’s Office, incoming calls to SPD’s 911 call center call have placed a growing strain on the current system. Call center volumes have increased by 13 percent since 2010.
The call center will be adding staff and making technology investments to handle the growing number of calls for service. Other technology investments at the department include technology infrastructure to support body worn cameras for officers and a new time tracking tool to help manage officer overtime.