October 11, 2011 in City

Verner looking to limit burden

Spending cuts likely to characterize ’12 budget
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner warned Monday that her budget for 2012 will focus on spending cuts rather than new taxes to help cover projected shortfalls.

“We also must limit the financial burdens on citizens and businesses. They, too, are feeling the impacts of the downturn and need predictability of city services and costs so they can prepare their own budgets and be ready to address other rising costs, including higher utility bills,” Verner said.

In her fourth annual address to the City Council, Verner said she will work to reduce labor costs by working with unions, some of which have contracts that expire at the end of the year. But the budget “requires prioritizing one service over another.”

She estimated that the gap between what the city expects in revenue and how much it would take to maintain current service at about $8 million.

Verner said her priority in the budget will be to “maintain safe neighborhoods and business centers.”

After the speech, Verner said that although her budget will not contain new revenue, she may suggest revenue that the council could pursue to save some services.

In May, Verner said new revenue options could be shifting red light camera ticket revenue or increasing hotel taxes.

Most of Verner’s speech focused on the city’s economic development efforts, which she said will help lead the city out of its ongoing budget woes. Each year Verner has been office, she has been forced to close multimillion dollar deficits.

She praised the Kendall Yards development and said the city was working with entrepreneurs along North Monroe Street to examine ways to further stimulate the business district. She pointed to planning initiatives under way to bring a residential and commercial development to a piece of property along North Foothills Drive that the city water and trash departments plan to leave, as well as efforts to “identify incentives” to attract more businesses to East Hillyard.

Among other economic development work, Verner also noted advancements in the University District and potential industrial growth in the West Plains, 10 square miles of which will enter city limits on Jan. 1.


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