Good News Seattle, City Budget Back In The Black

Apr 23, 2013

Budget officials in the city of Seattle delivered some good news yesterday. For the first time since the financial crisis, the city is forecasting a budget surplus.

City officials say the budget reflects Seattle’s improving economy. 

“As you can imagine just by looking out the window and seeing the cranes around town, the construction cranes, we are doing reasonably well,” said City Finance Director Glen Lee.

In 2012, Seattle saw a 9 percent increase in sales tax. Close to one-third of that came from the construction industry, according to Lee.

The property market is heating up again. Revenue from commercial real estate transactions more than doubled in 2012 from the previous year before.

Employers are hiring. Since the recession, job growth in the Seattle metropolitan area is at 7.3 percent, more than double that of of the rest of the state. Amazon.com and aerospace companies were big contributors to that growth.

According to Seattle Budget Director Beth Goldberg, the city ended 2012 with a $9.2 million surplus, with a positive budget outlook going forward.  

“I am pleased to say, and this is the first time I have been able to say this, that the budget is essentially in balance for 2014. Maybe I should repeat that, the budget is in balance for 2014,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said some of the surplus will go to the city’s Rainy Day Fund. The city drew heavily from that fund to balance its books during the recession.  

City officials cautioned, though, that the economic outlook remains uncertain.

Aerospace hiring is beginning to slow and the federal budget sequester could mean the loss of about 13,000 jobs in the region this year.

Goldberg said city departments should still aim to shave another 1 percent from their budgets just in case the economy worsens again.