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Spokane mayor warns of impending 2010 deficit

Mayor Mary Verner warned the Spokane City Council on Monday that the city faces a $5.5 million deficit next year.

The gap is so large, she said, that the city probably can’t avoid layoffs to balance the budget in 2010.

However, Verner added that the city probably won’t need to cut jobs this year, giving officials time to work with unions and residents to minimize layoffs and find ways to “make our government a better government.”

Ideas that will be considered include changing employee work schedules, combining services with other local governments, reworking city health care benefits and making across-the-board cuts.

“None of these decisions are going to be politically popular,” she said.

Verner said an across-the-board cut aimed at saving $5.5 million would be about 4 percent. That’s not her preferred option.

“It’s kind of like taking a cleaver to the situation instead of a scalpel,” she said.

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