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Seattle Housing's 2012 Proposed Budget Summary released

Declining revenues dictate layoffs, expense cuts

SEATTLE — August 31, 2011 — As government-funded agencies across the country face a climate of cutbacks and retrenchment, the Seattle Housing Authority is looking at a reduction of 55 full-time equivalent positions or nearly 10 percent of its staff capacity. This will require the lay-off or reduction in work hours for approximately forty workers by year's end.

"We are faced with a $10 million deficit between our expected revenues and the cost of maintaining our existing services and programs. Unfortunately we cannot realize that level of savings in any other way," said Executive Director Tom Tierney.

A summary of the proposed budget highlights the specifics of projected revenues and expenses. The 2012 proposed budget for the Authority will total $185.5 million, a drop of nearly 8 percent from 2011. This is an actual decrease of 13 percent below what would be required to continue all existing programs and service levels next year.

"Over the past year, we have witnessed rising pressure from Congress to decrease discretionary domestic spending," noted Tierney. "Funding for public housing clearly falls squarely into this category. At the same time, we have seen no willingness to increase taxes to create more revenues. Our agency is very much at the mercy of the political forces we find ourselves facing, and this makes it very difficult for us to continue to serve our residents with the high standards we aspire to."

At the onset of budget planning for 2012, it became clear projected revenues would be comparable or less than last year's and that expenses (including utilities, gasoline and employee benefits) would increase significantly. Much of the budget planning work for 2012 has focused on the need to decrease both non-labor and labor expenses in order to balance the budget.

Tierney anticipates that with the recent agreements on the debt ceiling, HUD revenues will continue to erode for a number of years. Because these appropriations make up about 75 percent of the Seattle Housing Authority funding, major adjustments in the current business model will be required. Temporary fiscal measures that traditionally address short term problems (e.g. furloughs or temporary salary cuts) will not be sufficient to solve the problem.

"We are facing a long term downward trend in our major federal revenues. We must look to new ways of operating in order to address this challenge," said Tierney.

The agency's long term goal remains - to serve at least the same number of households currently served - which will require significant adjustments and tradeoffs. Over the long term, the agency will rethink and re-engineer business models and will re-examine current policies.

"We must inevitably choose to do less in some areas," said Tierney.

Seattle Housing will host a public hearing on the proposed budget on Sept. 15, at 5 p.m. in the Board Room at Seattle Housing's Central Office, 120 Sixth Ave. N., to hear from interested residents and others regarding the budget. The public comment period will extend to the end of the business day on Friday, Sept. 30.

Comments may be emailed to Beka Smith at bsmith@seattlehousing.org, mailed to her at Seattle Housing Authority, 120 Sixth Ave. N, PO Box 19028, Seattle WA 98109-1028, or she can be reached by phone at 206-615-3576.