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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County’s $677 million budget includes major investments in Sheriff’s Office

Dec. 20, 2021 Updated Mon., Dec. 20, 2021 at 2:51 p.m.

The Spokane County Courthouse and Jail are seen in this 2019 aerial photo. The Spokane County commissioners approved a $677 million budget for 2022.   (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane County Courthouse and Jail are seen in this 2019 aerial photo. The Spokane County commissioners approved a $677 million budget for 2022.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane County commissioners on Dec. 13 approved a balanced $677 million budget.

The county’s budget has barely budged in the past three years. The 2020 and 2021 budgets were both $675 million.

As usual, the largest chunk of the county’s money is going to law enforcement and public safety. In total, the county plans to spend $161 million on justice and public safety in 2022.

Within that category, the jail and Sheriff’s Office will get the lion’s share of the money. Detention services is expected to spend $53 million and the Sheriff’s Office budget is $50 million, a significant $3 million increase over 2021.

Spokane County Commissioner Al French said the Sheriff’s Office’s budget clearly demonstrates where the county’s priorities lie.

“While other communities are talking about defunding the police or shifting revenues away from the police, we take a very different perspective,” French said. “We want to make sure that our Sheriff’s Office is very fully resourced.”

The Sheriff’s Office budget includes the hiring of 19 additional patrol deputies, two major crimes detectives and two public disclosure techs.

On the surface, the hiring of 19 additional deputies might seem shocking, given it represents nearly a tenth of the department’s roughly 230 dedicated positions. But the number is somewhat misleading.

The Sheriff’s Office has had difficulty hiring, and the new deputies are replacing officers the department has lost. The department still hasn’t entirely returned to its former staffing levels, but it has filled many vacancies after having been short by about 40 positions earlier in the year.

On top of the new officers, the Sheriff’s Office is outfitting its deputies with body cameras, getting infrared technology for its helicopter and buying new vehicles.

“Not only is it that we’re increasing the quantity of officers out there,” French said, “we’re clearly giving them more tools.”

The Sheriff’s Office will also be using part of its budget to pay for changes mandated by criminal justice reform laws enacted by the Washington Legislature in 2021.

Like French, County Commissioner Josh Kerns touted the county’s law enforcement spending. He also noted that the county is making significant investments in parks.

Pickleball court improvements at Holmberg Park and tennis court renovations at Linwood Park will cost about $425,000. Liberty Lake Regional Park is receiving about $1.5 million in upgrades, although much of that money is coming from grants. The Latah Creek Golf Course’s clubhouse will be renovated too.

The county will be spending $19 million on road construction in 2022.

Major expenses include $6.7 million for one of the final phases of the Bigelow Gulch Road/Forker Corridor project and $3 million for the Euclid Road Bridge.

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