April 3, 2009 in City

Police ponder budget reductions for 2010

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane police were told Thursday to begin thinking creatively about spending cuts next year that could top $2 million.

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor Mary Verner and Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley held a closed-door meeting with more than 100 members of the department, both commissioned and civilian, to say that the budget looks steady for 2009 but cuts may be coming in 2010.

At a press briefing outside the meeting, Kirkpatrick emphasized that nothing has been settled and all options were “on the table.” All city departments have been told to look at ways to cut their budget by 4.07 percent in 2010, and for the Police Department that would be about $2.2 million.

“We’re not making major changes right now in 2009,” Kirkpatrick said. “We must prepare for 2010.”

Personnel cuts of 20 to 50 employees have been mentioned, but only as a starting point for discussions, Kirkpatrick said.

The department typically loses about 10 employees a year to retirements and other attrition. Kirkpatrick said she’s enforcing a hiring freeze on commissioned officers, but will still hire dispatch workers when slots become open.

Any budget reductions in 2009 can likely be made through attrition and the hiring freeze, she said.

Thursday’s meeting was an attempt to hear suggestions other than employee cuts. One way to cut costs would be to reduce overtime, particularly the overtime the city pays for officers assigned to large civic events like the Lilac Parade, Bloomsday and Hoopfest, and charge the sponsors of those events for the officers they need. That would have to be a decision by the mayor and City Council, Kirkpatrick said.

The city might also tap into its reserve fund, particularly if it gets concessions from employees’ unions that would cut costs, Cooley said. That would have to be negotiated with the unions.

“We understand a meaningful use of the reserves is important at our end,” Cooley said.

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