Mayor David Condon is releasing his final budget proposal for city lawmaker approval with what he believes is a firm foundation for the next administration.
“I feel confident in what we have,” Condon said at a City Hall news conference, unveiling his detailed $1.1 billion spending proposal for Spokane next year. About $205 million of that money is directly supported by city taxpayers.
Still, the city’s first two-term mayor in four decades said Friday, many questions remain.
Condon, who has been at odds with members of the City Council about emergency communications and an additional tax to pay for more police officers patrolling the streets, again highlighted those issues Friday as continuing expenses his successor will have to deal with following Tuesday’s mayoral election.
The mayor also said the next administration and new City Council will need to come up with long-term funding plans for services for the city’s homeless after lawmakers approved $2 million in warming center contracts for the winter on Thursday, which are largely funded by reserve dollars.
Condon believes there’s a gap in funding for homeless services “of a million at least that I would hope the next administration would be able to put together a regional partnership,” Condon said, echoing his position from earlier in the year that other area governments should help with the costs of shelter and services.
“Quite frankly, the citizens of Spokane, with in part some of the county dollars, have been carrying the burden for the metro area,” Condon said. “But the ground is set so they can make those investments in the future.”
City lawmakers had accused Condon’s administration of dragging its feet on the issue and not providing necessary details ahead of a previous vote on a contract to provide the city’s homeless with warming facilities this winter.
Condon also said the budget included just a portion of what would be necessary to outfit the 20 new police officers the city will hire in 2020 following approval of a property tax levy that the mayor opposed.
“I wish the levy also gave you the true expense of what that equipment is,” said Condon. “That $212,000 is just half, because we know, or we project, that we won’t be bringing all 20 by the end of the year. So there will have to be those dollars in the next year, if you’re going to keep those positions.”
The mayor also defended the decision of the city to establish its own emergency management department, independent of Spokane County. The move has sparked concern from Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and forced county officials to consider other funding options for its emergency management system that had been supported largely by city funds.
“It is a best practice to have cities have these, especially a city in a metro center as ourselves,” Condon said.
He said he believed establishing an independent emergency management department was also necessary because city lawmakers did not approve a move to partner with the county.
City lawmakers unanimously rejected Condon’s plans for joining what is known as the Spokane Regional Emergency Communications system, citing a lack of clear benefits for the switch and concern about the effect on city employees.
The 2020 budget includes a balanced ledger for the city’s Parks division, which earlier this summer faced a potential $1 million shortfall after analysts took a hard look at the books. Officials have addressed that shortfall by increasing some fees for attractions at Riverfront Park, eliminating some vacant positions and using some staff in multiple roles next year.
“Our top priority is to align services and allocate those dollars in appropriate sources,” said Garrett Jones, the division’s interim director.
The result is a $27.6 million budget for 2020 that includes a 5% increase in operation expenses. The division eliminated four vacant gardening positions from the budget and will adjust some fees to “special interest” programming in 2020, Jones said.
The Park Board also increased some fees for Riverfront Park in 2020, which is expected to bring in an additional $100,000 annually. Visitors to the city’s ice ribbon feature will pay 30 cents more this year, for an adult price of $7.25 and a $5.25 child admission. Single rides on the Looff Carrousel will increase 50 cents to $3, with unlimited ride passes costing $6.50, an increase of $1.
Parks also allocated an additional $862,000 in their budget next year to cover the increasing minimum wage cost of employing temporary, seasonal employees, which Jones called “the lifeline and lifeblood” of the city’s expansive park system.
Condon said the budget will be subject to review and some revision prior to its required approval by the end of the year. The new mayor will propose the budget for 2021.
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