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Contract changes may save Spokane Valley money

New calculations for overhead costs allow county to use state, federal grants

The city of Spokane Valley may see savings on contracts with Spokane County if both jurisdictions approve changes to how the city pays for its portion of the county’s overhead.

The contracts involved include animal control, Department of Emergency Management, hearing examiner and pre-trial. The change would have the city paying a portion of all overhead costs. Under the current contract, only some of the overhead costs are included. Making the change allows the county to be reimbursed for overhead costs when it receives state and federal grants. This will have the net effect of lowering the percentage of overhead costs the city pays, said senior administrative analyst Morgan Koudelka. “They have other revenue sources that are paying for them,” he said. “It’s a small advantage to us.”

If approved, the change would be retroactive to 2010 because the city and the county are still determining the city’s cost for that year based on usage, compared to the estimated cost the city paid at the time, Koudelka said. Estimates show savings of about $33,000 in 2010 with the new calculations.

Changes to the contract for district court services would save the city even more money. The system for weighting types of misdemeanor cases is based on decades-old state standards, administrative analyst John Pietro said. The changes would create a new weighting system that would be updated every three years. The system would look at the average time each day that court personnel spend on each type of case, he said.

If those changes are made retroactive as well, the city could save more than $168,000 for 2011, Koudelka said. “This is a more accurate way to account for costs,” he said.

Also, instead of estimating costs on an annual basis, the city would make monthly payments based on the previous month’s caseload. “We’re doing something a little bit different,” he said. Doing it the new way would also end the current years-long process to figure out the difference between estimated costs and actual costs for each calendar year.

Councilman Chuck Hafner asked if the projected savings would repeat. “Are we going to be as well off in 2012 as in 2011?” he said.

The savings look consistent but it does depend on the actual number of cases, Koudelka said. “There are a lot of moving parts,” he said.

In other business, the council got its first look at the proposed 2014-19 Transportation Improvement Plan, which updates the previous six-year plan for road and trail projects. “There haven’t been a whole lot of changes to the TIP,” said senior capital projects engineer Steve Worley.

Councilman Arne Woodard said the city should focus on the street preservation projects on the list rather than street reconstruction projects, which are more expensive. “We have them on the list in case grants come up,” Woodard said of the street reconstructions. “As long as it’s still carrying traffic and not completely gravel, in my mind it’s not important because it’s already a failed street.”

Worley agreed that the plan was to do a reconstruction project only if the city receives a grant for it and those projects won’t be made a priority.

The council also considered which schools to request school zone flashing beacons for in an upcoming grant request. Senior traffic engineer Inga Note said she has narrowed the list to four schools and is waiting for traffic speed information before picking two or three schools to submit for funding. She said she also plans to consult with the school district on where they would like to see beacons.

The finalists are Horizon Middle School, Adams Elementary (along Adams and Eighth), McDonald Elementary (along McDonald) and Sunrise Elementary (along 24th Avenue). Councilman Arne Woodard questioned why a middle school was included on the list.

“It’s a 35 mile per hour arterial and we’ve been trying to do those before the 25 mile per hour (streets),” Note said.