Demystifying the Council's Budget Process

The Seattle City Council exclusively focuses on creating a budget for about two months every year, from late September through late November. This interactive budget guide is meant to make the budget process straightforward and simple to understand. Most importantly, this resource is intended to highlight when and how you can make your voice heard during the process.

Participating in the Budget Process

First, let's talk about how you can participate in the budget process.

There are the three ways you can share your insights:

  1. Budget Committee Meetings - 3 Opportunities
  2. Public Hearings - 2 Opportunities
  3. Written Comment - Anytime

Budget Committee Meetings

As the Budget Committee convenes throughout the fall, there will be three opportunities to share your comments verbally. You can sign up to speak two hours before each session, and can participate remotely or in person.

You can make comments on:

  • Wednesday, September 27 @ 10:00 AM
  • Wednesday, October 11 @ 10:00 AM
  • Friday, October 27 @ 10:00 AM

You sign Up for public comment 2 hours before the meeting begins.

Learn About Public Comment

Public Hearings on the Budget

There are two public hearings scheduled this fall. Each one is solely dedicated to hearing from Seattleites about their budget priorities, and everyone who signs up to speak will have an opportunity to do so.

Like the Budget Committee meetings, you can sign up to speak two hours before each session, and can participate remotely or in person. Please mask up if you're in-person!

  • Wednesday, October 18 @ 5:00 PM
  • Monday, November 13 @ 5:00 PM

You sign Up for public comment 2 hours before the meeting begins.

Learn About Public Comment

Written Comment

Last, but certainly not least, you can share your insights about the budget in writing. Your written feedback is welcome - and encouraged! - anytime.

There are some days when the Council will be deep into budget deliberations, and written feedback will be the best way to express your thoughts.

Find Your Councilmembers Email All 9 Councilmembers

Budget Process Overview

Now that you know how when you can participate in the budget, let's dive into the budget process.

Starting in 2023, there's an important change to the process. Instead of creating a new budget from scratch each year, the City is adopting two-year budget cycles. That means the City will create a budget plan for two years, and in odd years - like 2023 - will just "adjust" the budget so everything stays on track, only making relatively minor changes.

There are the 4 stages that unfold over the course of two months. Some steps take place over the course of a day while others last a week or more:

Stage Date(s)
Mayor's Proposed Budget Amendments Sept. 27
Budget Hearings (Central Staff Presentations) Oct. 11 - Oct. 19
Budget Deliberations (Discussion and Voting on Councilmember Amendments) Oct. 27 - Nov. 15
Final Committee Vote and Council Adoption Nov. 20 - Nov. 21

Budget Calendar

Here's the same overview of the budget process in calendar form.

Let's take a closer look at each one of these four stages one at a time.

Mayor's Proposed Budget Adjustments

To kick things off, the City Budget Office gives an overview of the Mayor's proposed adjustments to the budget, discussing significant changes from the previous year's budget, like notable adjustments to programs, staff, etc.

A little context: the Mayor works with City departments to create his budget from about February through July, and the whole thing is unveiled in September.

And as soon as the budget is publicly released, Council gets to work unpacking it to better understand it. And there's a lot to unpack!

Budget Hearings:
Central Staff Presentations

To better understand the Mayor's proposed adjustments to the budget, the Council unpacks many individual department budgets. The Council's policy experts - named Central Staff - all come together to do a deeper dive into the departmental budgets. Councilmembers raise questions and identify issues they'll have to address in the Council's budget.

Budget Deliberations:
Discussion and Voting on Councilmember Amendments

This is the first step when the Council's budget begins to take shape. Between the last step and this one, Councilmembers create amendments. During this step, the Councilmembers explain and discuss their amendments. There are two types of budget amendments:

  1. Council Budget Actions (CBAs)
    CBAs change revenue, expenditures, staff positions, create provisos, and other actions with financial implications.
  2. Statements of Legislative Intent (SLIs)
    SLIs state the Council's intent, gives guidance about City policy, call for additional study or reporting, etc.

Put another way, Council Budget Actions are akin to Ordinances, and Statements of Legislative Intent are like Resolutions.

Here's an important change to the process: This year, any changes proposed by councilmembers must be "self-balancing." That means if they are proposing new spending, they will have to explain how it will be funded - either by identifying new revenue or by taking money from somewhere else.

Final Action, City Council Vote

Last, and certainly not least, the Council takes two final votes on its budget. The Council takes a final vote as the Budget Committee, and then once again as the Full City Council.

And that's it! After the Council passed the budget, it goes to the Mayor for his signature.

Thank you for reading this guide! We hope it helped clarify the budget process, and that you feel like you know how you can participate!

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City Council

Address: 600 Fourth Ave. 2nd Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34025, Seattle, WA , 98124-4025
Phone: (206) 684-8888
Phone Alt: Listen Line: (206) 684-8566
Fax: (206) 684-8587
Meet the Council

The Seattle City Council establishes City policy through enactment of ordinances (laws) and adoption of resolutions. The City Council also approves and adopts the City's budget. The nine Council members and their legislative assistants are part of the City of Seattle Legislative Department.