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Mayor plans to take full $169k salary next year

Spokane Mayor David Condon is proposing to eliminate 100 City Hall jobs to avoid raising taxes next year.

But he wants to boost spending in at least one area: his own paycheck.

Condon, who agreed to hold his annual salary to $100,000 in his first year, intends to begin taking the full mayoral salary of about $169,000 beginning in 2013.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Condon was advised by the city's legal staff to take the full amount rather than continue former Mayor Mary Verner's pledge to hold the mayor's annual salary at $100,000, which has created accounting and other problems for the potential problems for the city.

The city charter specifies that the mayor should be paid equal to the highest-paid city employee, which currently is Fire Chief Bobby Williams at $169,000. Condon agreed to accept the lower amount for 2012, saying that he would abide by the amount included in the budget that was in place when he took office but he made no promises for the remainder of his four-year term.

Meanwhile, the job cuts are necessary to avoid raising property taxes, he said.

Most of the 100 positions on the chopping block, including 19 in the police department, already are vacant but as many as 35 employees could be looking at layoff notices next year to close an estimated $10 million shortfall. Condon said none of the layoffs would come from the police or firefighting forces.

"This is a flat budget," he said during a noon rollout of the proposed $164.5 million general fund budget, which essentially is the city's discretionary spending plan. Condon expects to unveil a separate capital budget later.

Condon boosts City Hall outreach

Early in his term, Mayor David Condon appeared frustrated with the city’s ability to stay in touch with its citizens.

“It should be easier to contact the mayor and to get back to you,” Condon said in a televised call-in show with the mayor and City Council President Ben Stuckart that aired live on KSPS in February.

Condon noted that he previously worked on the staff of U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and was used to helping answer and track large volumes of constituent questions and concerns.

This month, Condon is unveiling two new communication strategies already commonly used by other government officials. On Tuesday, Condon and a few other city administrators responded to questions on Facebook during the city’s first official Facebook chat. Both events are focused on getting citizen input on the 2013 budget.

“This is another way we can communicate,” Condon said, while taking a break from answering questions. “Were doing it during the lunch hour so people if they wanted to can break away from work and see what their city is up to.”

Condon says he won’t raise taxes to close $10 million hole

Another year, another multimillion dollar deficit at Spokane City Hall.

Spokane Mayor David Condon pledged that his 2013 general fund budget proposal will not include higher taxes despite a forecasted deficit of up to $10 million.

"Our citizens expects us to live within our means Their incomes have not increased and ours is not going to either,” Condon said at a news conference on Tuesday, his 101st day in office.

The city’s general fund is made up of the services mostly paid for with sales, property and utility taxes. They include the fire, library, police and parks departments.

The deficit could improve soon. That’s because about $2 million of the deficit is based on a prediction that the state will slash revenue-sharing tax money with cities. The state’s budget, however, isn’t finalized.

A new mayor, a new budget deficit

Another year, another deficit.

Spokane Mayor David Condon is holding a news conference this morning to discuss the city's forecasted deficit for 2013.

As of a couple weeks ago, administrators were forecasting a gap of about $10 million between the revenue the city expects to collect in 2013 and the cost of maitaining current services and employee levels. Some of that deficit is based on predictions of revenue-sharing cuts from the unfinished state budget, so the final number may not be as dire.

We are used to the the annual spring deficit alarm bells, which have sounded the last four or five years. While the deficits usually hold somewhat true by the end of the year, the dire cuts have largely been avoided. Employee levels aren't much different than they were before the start of the 2008 recession. All the library branches still are open. Police officer levels are less than if the city had implemented the neighborhood policing plan promised by former Mayor Dennis Hession, but that plan never was implemented anyway. The number of officers in the Spokane Police Department has hardly changed — if you consider numbers over the past decade.

So will 2013 be the year that the sky falls? Or will union concessions, reserves from whatever fund happens to be overfunded, a sales tax windfall, bonus utility taxes or some other money plug the gap?