Spokane County is saving more than $1 million annually on lean management strategies that have been employed over the past couple of years, Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn told about 200 representatives of local businesses Friday morning.
"County employees are empowered to make change, and they are producing amazing results," O'Quinn said.
O'Quinn delivered the 2016 State of Spokane County address at a meeting sponsored by Greater Spokane Inc. at the Mirabeau Park Hotel and Convention Center. She was introduced by former Spokane County Commissioner and current GSI CEO Todd Mielke.
O'Quinn began her speech by acknowledging new colleague Nancy McLaughlin, who was appointed to Mielke's seat on the commission last month. It is the first time in the 158-year history of Spokane County that two women have served on the commission, O'Quinn said.
Lean management strategies have produced cost-savings in multiple departments, including the Sheriff's Office, District Courts and 911 Communications, O'Quinn said. She praised the County's Chief Operations Officer, John Dickson, for his work leading the efforts on lean management strategies.
Roughly $120 million, or 66 percent, of Spokane County's general fund expenses in 2016 will go toward public safety. O'Quinn announced the permanent hiring of Washington State University professor Jackie van Wormer as administrator of the county's efforts toward criminal justice reform, a post she has held on a temporary contractual basis since April 2014.
Cost-savings will need to occur as expenses rise and the county's revenue from property and sales tax remain relatively stable, O'Quinn said. She lamented the Washington Legislature's failure to pass a budget before the regular session ended and said she hoped there would be no additional unfunded mandates or revenue-cutting that could affect counties' bottom lines on issues such as mental health.
"Our expenses can be changed at the whim of the Legislature. Can you say, 'unfunded mandates'?" O'Quinn said. "And they didn't get out of session, unfortunately last night. So we're continuing in the special session today. And all we can hope is that they do no harm in the next few days as they finalize their budget."
O'Quinn offered some numbers during her speech to show the scope of Spokane County government: The Auditor's office processed more than 2,700 marriage license last year. The Spokane Sports Commission hosted events that brought more than 42,000 athletes and 100,000 visitors to Spokane last year, in addition to marquee annual events such as Hoopfest and Bloomsday. The county disposed of more than 1,000 tons of Windstorm 2015 debris at no cost to residents. At the Spokane County Interstate Fair, the Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cake booth sold an average of 840 funnel cakes daily.