Dear Community Partners:
Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell is releasing the 2023-2024 Proposed Mid-Biennial Budget Adjustments. This budget reflects Mayor Harrell’s continued commitment to, and investment in, bold actions that address urgent needs of our communities and advance our One Seattle priorities. Mayor Harrell’s proposal continues work initiated in the 2023 Adopted Budget to invest in creating safe, healthy, and thriving communities. This budget continues supporting efforts to deliver effective public safety, build affordable housing and address the homelessness crisis, activate our Downtown, and advance opportunity and equity for all.
With the investments in this budget proposal, we can work together to advance our shared One Seattle vision and an agenda that will inspire the best in our city and keep us moving forward.
For Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, key highlights included in the mayor’s proposed budget include:
SDCI is currently experiencing the effects of a slowdown in development and is using this opportunity to pursue process improvements and enhance our customer service, while working through our Strategic Plan. While permit revenues have declined from their recent peak, we haven’t seen a drop similar to the Great Recession. SDCI is prepared for any further decrease in revenues in the event of a prolonged downturn – our Core Staffing Reserve is funded to endure a 3-year downturn and will continue to enable our department to focus on regulatory reform, internal improvements to make permitting more efficient, and maintain appropriate staffing levels for the City’s subsequent development rebound.
SDCI continues to adapt to a hybrid work environment and has established new business practices to provide more flexible experiences for our customers. Our ability to accept, review and issue permits online allowed us to provide uninterrupted core services during the pandemic. What started as a temporary pivot to virtual public meetings was so well received that we are looking at ways to continue virtual public meetings in the future while providing access to the public that does not have technology resources. Our Virtual Applicant Services Center (ASC) continues to receive high customer satisfaction ratings and we plan to offer an in-person function on the 4th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower (SMT) by the end of the year. The inspections team has been able to conduct some construction and code compliance inspections virtually and continues to explore long term options.
The following is a summary of SDCI’s key changes in the 2023-2024 Proposed Mid-Biennial Budget Adjustments:
The 2023-2024 Proposed Mid-Biennial Budget Adjustment includes legislation revising a portion of SDCI’s fees and charges beginning on January 1, 2024. The proposed 2024 fee revisions include an inflationary adjustment of 2% and several other fee adjustments to keep up with the cost of doing business. These changes include increases to Vacant Building Monitoring (VBM) fees and most Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) fees. This legislation also proposes a couple of new fees to establish a cost recovery mechanism for services not previously captured by fees. These include the creation of a cost recovery mechanism to renew or reestablish a fire sprinkler permit and a new Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) application fee. Specifically, the addition of the TRAO fee will fund resources for the timely processing of relocation assistance, which will help get new housing constructed more quickly and better serve low-income renters eligible for the assistance.
Funding New Positions:
The 2023-2024 Proposed Mid-Biennial Budget includes several new positions:
- 1.0 FTE Mechanical Inspector in Inspection Services. This position will provide much needed staff capacity to keep up with the increase in inspections workload that has been consistently robust for several years. SDCI’s inspections team has seen a consistent increase in Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) systems. HRVs are complex and have triggered an increase in noise reviews, mechanical inspections and an increase in refrigeration inspections.
- 1.0 FTE Project Funds & Agreement Coordinator, Sr in Organizational Strategy and Support. There has been a significant increase in contracts and MOAs since 2019 and the addition of this position provides much needed contract and agreement support to SDCI’s accounting and budget team.
- 1.0 FTE Code Compliance Analyst in Code Compliance. This position will increase capacity to meet the higher-than expected workload from the new Economic Displacement Relocation Assistance (EDRA) program. EDRA serves low-income tenants facing large rent increases by providing relocation assistance and then seeking reimbursement from the property owner.
- 1.0 FTE Planning & Development Specialist, Sr in Code Compliance. This position will improve internal processing and external customer service for permitted development with a TRAO component.
Supporting our Internal and External Customers:
The 2023-2024 Proposed Mid-Biennial Budget also includes providing critical resources to continuously improve our services.
- Mobile Inspections Application – In collaboration with Seattle ITD, SDCI is embarking on the exploratory phase of a Mobile Inspections Application. A mobile inspections app will provide a portable technology option that will allow inspectors to enter relevant inspection information at the time of inspection.
- RRIO Enforcement Support – The addition of this critical resource will provide coordination of enforcement and added capacity for dedicated property research, enforcement mailings, customer service, property research, compliance and penalty negotiation.
- Critical Resource Needs for Accela – Seattle’s Information Technology Department (ITD) continues to manage a growing product backlog for the City’s permitting and inspections enterprise software application Accela. The Accela application is the technology backbone of SDCI’s core permitting business. Accela’s Managed Application Services (MAS) is a contract service through Accela directly that will enable the reduction of the backlog and will support several Mayor and Council initiatives, including: Housing Permitting and Tree Service Provider Registration per Ordinance 126554.
- SDCI Space Planning – The redesign of SDCI floor space is necessary to better accommodate the hybrid workforce.
- Incentivizing Green Buildings – The latest energy codes are expected to be adopted in early 2024. SDCI will hire a consultant to research and propose viable strategies and energy efficiency measures, provide cost/benefit analysis of these strategies and measures, estimate carbon emissions reductions associated with each option, and assist with stakeholder outreach.
For more information on the proposed budget, read the mayor’s press release here: Mayor Harrell Announces 2024 Budget Proposal – Office of the Mayor (seattle.gov)
NEXT STEPS AND COMMUNICATION ABOUT BUDGET
Over the next two months, the City Council will review the Mayor’s 2023-2024 Proposed Mid-Biennial Budget Adjustments. Public hearings are on October 18 and November 13. Final adoption of the budget is expected on Tuesday, November 21. Read more about the Mayor’s proposed budget here: One Seattle Budget Proposal 2024 Speech Text – Office of the Mayor, and you can also direct any questions to MOS_COMMS@seattle.gov.