City Budget Won’t Make Big Changes But 1998 Spending Plan Includes New Library, New Park, Higher Utility Rates, New Cable TV Tax

The city of Spokane’s proposed 1998 spending plan won’t dramatically change the lives of its residents.

There are no plans to slash the budget or boost it by millions of dollars.

But residents likely will pay more for their utilities. And they may see a slight jump in their cable TV bills. But they could see their city property tax bills drop.

They’ll get another park, a new library and a public information coordinator.

Under the proposed budget, to be reviewed in a public hearing tonight at 6, the city’s general government spending will increase by slightly more than 1 percent, from $123.3 million in 1997 to $124.4 million next year.

The general government fund pays for everything from public safety to parks and recreation.

City Manager Bill Pupo describes the budget as lean.

“There are no major changes” from this year, he said.

In fact, he said, he has tried to cut back in some areas, particularly discretionary spending such as travel and cellular phones.

The travel budget will drop from $499,886 in 1997 to $484,223 in 1998, while the cellular phone budget will decline from $129,080 to $106,343.

But some spending increases, such as the cost of police, can’t be avoided, he said.

The city must pick up the full tab for the 26 police officers hired with the help of a 1993 federal grant. The grant - which kicked in $25,000 a year per officer for three years - expires at the end of 1997, leaving city taxpayers responsible for the entire $1.2 million cost.

The library department plans to open a branch in the Indian Trail neighborhood with seven new employees.

The $1.8 million branch will be the sixth and last library built under a voter-approved bond issue. While the bond covers construction costs, about $300,000 must come from the regular city budget to staff and operate the new branch.

The Parks and Recreation Department plans to implement its new urban forestry program and construct a park in the Garry neighborhood.

Other proposed changes in city spending in 1998 include:

Increasing utility rates for water, sewers and garbage collection an average of $2.87 a month. The rate increase also would cost residents more in utility taxes, adding about $300,000 to the city’s general government fund.

Adding a 6 percent utility tax to cable TV service but giving companies a 5 percent credit for the franchise fee they already pay. The result is a 1 percent tax increase that would raise the average monthly bill by 37 cents. The new tax would bring in an additional $200,000 to the city.

Expanding the communications department by hiring a public information coordinator at $28,081 a year. Pupo says the post is necessary to aid communication with the new neighborhood councils.

Increasing salaries for union employees an average of 3 percent.

Giving $80,000 to Focus 21, an economic development effort affiliated with the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce.

Increasing by 4 percent the total amount of city property taxes collected in 1997. But the owner of a $100,000 home likely still would pay $15 less in 1998 than in 1997 because voter-approved street and park bonds expire this year.

Increasing lease rates for parking meter bags and commercial loading zone permits. The fee for an annual parking meter bag would go from $120 a year to $150 a year.

Adding a surcharge to the ambulance bills of nonresidents who need emergency medical care while they’re inside city limits.

Under the proposal, a nonresident would pay $300 for basic life support provided at the scene, but only if the person is taken to a hospital. A $192 fee would be added to the charge if a paramedic rides along to the hospital and provides advanced life support.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Changes in revenue

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MEETING The Spokane City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget tonight. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. The council plans to vote on the budget Dec. 8.

This sidebar appeared with the story: MEETING The Spokane City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget tonight. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. The council plans to vote on the budget Dec. 8.

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