During the Oct. 2 Tacoma City Council study session on the proposed 2019-20 biennial budget, City Manager Elizabeth Pauli presented a plan to improve public safety, protect affordable housing and support young people experiencing homelessness.
The proposed budget is $3.5 billion, of which $515 million is allocated to the general fund. This fund covers some of key functions of city government that residents are most familiar with, notably public safety. Police is slated for $175.5 million, or 35 percent, with fire at $125.2 million, or 24 percent. Property tax accounts for 24 percent, sales tax 23 percent, business tax 21 percent and utility tax 18 percent.
When the budget process began in May, a deficit of $5.3 million in the general fund was discovered. Most of this can be made up by several fees and fines. One is a fine for false fire alarms. Another is for non-emergency lift assistance. This is when firefighters are called to an assisted living facility to assist staff with moving a patient.
Pauli acknowledged the work of staff on the budget, as well as input from the public, which brought “an unprecedented level of engagement.” The city had information booths at six summer festivals. Pauli and other staff made presentations to Neighborhood Councils, as well as the Black Collective and Latinos Unidos. Feedback from residents indicated their top five concerns are affordable housing, homelessness, public safety, economic development and access to transit. Detailed information about various sections of the budget will be presented at study sessions for the next several weeks. The meetings take place at noon on Tuesdays at Tacoma Municipal Building.
Four town hall meetings with Council members are scheduled this month. The first will be from 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 8 at Stewart Middle School, located at 5010 Pacific Ave. The second will be from 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 11 at the Centre at Norpoint, located at 4818 Nassau Ave. NE. The third will be 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 22 at Wilson High School, located at 1202 N. Orchard St. The final meeting will be 2-4 p.m. on Oct. 27 at STAR Center, located at 3873 S. 66th St. Food, childcare and Spanish language interpretation will be provided at this event. More information about the process can be found at www.cityoftacoma.org/budget.