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City Budget Cuts Dare, Pay Hikes Council Approves $107 Million Spending Plan

The Spokane City Council on Monday passed a 1996 budget that ditches the DARE program midyear and tosses out an across-the-board salary hike proposed for top managers.

Next year’s spending plan also bumps up the cost of property taxes, pet licenses and utility bills.

The council voted 6-1 to approve the $107 million general government budget, which includes basic city services such as police, fire, libraries and parks.

The spending plan is about $3 million more than the 1995 adopted city budget.

Councilman Chris Anderson cast the dissenting vote after urging his colleagues to keep the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

Calling the spending plan a “flexible document” that will change in coming months, Mayor Jack Geraghty commended management for balancing the budget.

“For the moment, this reflects an austere budget that allows for continuation of basic services to the community,” Geraghty said.

Last-minute changes to the budget included dropping a proposed 2.75 percent salary increase for the city’s top 16 managers that include City Manager Roger Crum and City Attorney James Sloane.

Outgoing Councilwoman Bev Numbers asked the pay hikes be delayed at least 90 days while a personnel committee studies how they might be calculated - possibly basing them on merit and responsibility.

Because the increases “came to light (Monday) morning,” Councilman Orville Barnes said the council needed more time to consider the proposal.

Raising management salaries “sends a terrible message to the people of this community who are being asked to cut back for the sake of budgeting problems,” Anderson said.

At Anderson’s and Barnes’ insistence, the council dropped a property tax levy lid increase from 6 percent to 5 percent, which will decrease city revenues by $212,000.

They asked that management use a portion of the $1.75 million in reserves to recoup the loss.

The budget includes:

Eliminating the $550,000-a-year DARE program by June 30, replacing it with a program that uses police officers in the classroom on a less frequent basis.

Raising the total amount the city collects in property taxes by 5 percent.

Dropping an eight-person fire rescue squad. That will save the city $375,000 each year.

Raising pet license fees by $2.50. The increase will support the $97,450 spay-and-neuter program approved by voters in November.

Raising utility rates an average 74 cents each month. The Water Department is bumping rates 3 percent, and the Sewer Department is raising rates 1.8 percent. Anderson voted against the rate increases.

Levying fines for “false alarms,” where police respond to a burglary alarm triggered accidentally.

Cutting expenses such as travel, cellular phone use, consultant contracts and temporary-season employees by $760,000.

Eliminating at least 40 staff positions through attrition and the city’s voluntary severance program.

The last budget hearing attracted nine residents who suggested several changes to spending, including keeping DARE and dropping utility hikes.

, DataTimes


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