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Thu., Sept. 15, 2011, 4:53 p.m.

City budget picture offers good and bad news

The bleak economic picture in the state likely will make the Spokane City Council’s job balancing the 2012 harder by about a $1 million, the city’s budget director told the council on Thursday.

But not all the news at a council budget briefing on was bad. Budget Director Tim Dunivant said better-than-expected sales tax revenues will help carry the city through 2011 without the need for additional cuts. Through August, the city collected $13.6 million in sales taxes, about a $1 million more than expected.

That increase will help offset unexpected declines of more than $100,000 each in water, sewer and telephone utility taxes and gambling taxes as well as $93,000 less than expected in parking tickets. Dunivant said the decline in tickets is related to an opening for a parking enforcement officer that has since been filled. (He said about 400 people applied for the job). The sales tax cushion also should protect the city from an expected decline in liquor sales revenue from the state, he said.

Earlier this year, the city estimated that the city in 2012 will receive $6.7 million less than what would be needed to maintain current services with the same number of employees covered by the general fund. The general fund pays for police, fire, parks, libraries and other services paid for through taxes as opposed to utility fees.

Dunivant said he expects that number to grow by about $1 million before Mayor Mary Verner releases her final draft budget in October.

He said some city departments have been asked to prepare for an additional 1 or 2 percent cut.

Verner’s preliminary budget plan, announced in May proposed closing the gap, in part, by diverting $400,000 in red-light-camera traffic fines to the general fund, increasing parking penalty revenue by $200,000 and netting $800,000 by increasing the hotel tax.

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Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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