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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Spokane County budget

County wants out of its deal

Spokane County commissioners seem to have the upper hand in their battle with county unions in the public relations war over next year’s budget.
In adopting a budget last week that cuts positions or hours for almost every agency and department, the commissioners fired a broadside at their union workers for refusing to forego raises in the face of a bad economy. Judging from letters, phone calls and comments on this newspaper’s Web site, the public is more likely to agree with the commish, that in the midst of a recession, the unions should not be receiving cost-of-living adjustments.
“Give up a small percentage of your salary if you want to save positions,” Commissioner Mark Richard told the county prosecutor’s union who asked if there was any way to avoid cutting eight deputy prosecutors. “It requires people to give things up.”
Non-union folks already gave up raises, county officials said.
True enough. But before one applauds the board for a brave stand against big, bad unions, it might be important to remember one of the basic, four-word tenets of American business: A deal’s a deal.

Think you can balance the county budget? Have at it

To go directly to the special budget spreadsheet, click here.

Later this week, Spokane County commissioners will take a $10.5 million whack out of the county’s general fund budget.

They’d need $146.8 million to keep everything the county did and offered at the end of next year as they were at the beginning of this year, they can only count on about $136.3 million. Law says they can’t budget bet on an improving economy and budget in the red.

For months, the commissioners and the department heads who report to them, as well as the folks who are elected separately to handle other county functions have wrestled over what and where to cut. When they settle on the final numbers – possibly Tuesday – some people will be sad, some mad, and some really mad. Nobody’s gonna be smiling.

With governments everywhere cutting budgets, the county’s $10.5 million problem may not seem like such a big deal. The state’s budget, after all, is projected to be about $2.6 billion out of whack for the final 18 months of the biennium. By comparison, $10.5 mill is a rounding error.

But there’s a basic fact about the county budget: About 80 percent of it goes to pay the people who do the county’s work. Things it’s required by law to do, like arrest, try, prosecute, defend and punish bad guys. Or figure out what a piece of property is worth, collect the taxes on it, put that money into safe investments and pay it out to different cities, towns and district who have some claim on it. Register vehicles and provide license plates or tabs, file documents that say who owns a piece of property, who is married and who is divorced. Some things the county does, like pave roads and operate the 911 system, have a special tax or fee that pays for all or most of it.

Reporters know that government budget stories generally cause eyes to glaze over. People who read them closely often insist they could do it better, given half a chance.

So we’re going to give you the chance to make cuts to the county’s payroll…

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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