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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Board of Health asks for American Rescue Plan funds, finalizes budget request to county

The Spokane Regional Health District building is seen in this undated photo.   (JESSE TINSLEY)
The Spokane Regional Health District building is seen in this undated photo.  (JESSE TINSLEY)

The Spokane Board of Health has asked for $6 million in combined local and federal funds to pay for operations next year and fix its building near downtown.

The Spokane Regional Health District was facing a $3.5 million deficit, and after September’s board meeting the finance committee combed through the district’s proposed budget searching for where the district could make cuts or ask for one-time federal funding to plug up budget holes.

The result is a request for about $2 million from Spokane County and an additional $4 million from federal COVID-19 assistance to provide upkeep at the district’s facility at 1101 W. College Ave.

Millwood Mayor Kevin Freeman, who leads the board’s budget committee, said state funding, as well as identifying expenses the American Rescue Plan funds could cover, got the local funding request initially down to $2.6 million.

Local funding for the Spokane Regional Health District comes from the county’s budget, approved by the commissioners.

“We stressed savings, not cutting,” Freeman said, noting that the remaining savings found in the budget came from streamlining processes and assignments in the district.

By eliminating six positions, including two full-time management positions, the finance committee cut the budget by an additional $690,000.

Four of the six positions proposed to be cut in next year’s budget are vacant. Two of those positions are filled, but Administrator Amelia Clark told the board these employees were eligible for other open roles at the district.

Eliminating these six positions at the district will result in a shuffling of leadership at the district, specifically in the Preventive Public Health and Quality Planning & Assessment divisions.

Both of these divisions have had managers leave their jobs or retire this year. Instead of replacing those roles, the new budget will simply eliminate those positions.

The health district did not provide details about how this restructuring would work because the budget is not yet finalized.

“The specifics of how that reorganization would work or how management positions would be affected really cannot be determined until a balanced budget is finalized,” Kelli Hawkins, district spokeswoman, said in an email. “This cannot happen until we know what the Board of County Commissioners will decide during their funding process.”

The finance committee got the local funding request down to $1.98 million, and the Board of Health voted on Thursday to ask commissioners for that amount.

The Board of Health is also asking for $4.07 million of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, identifying one-time expenses that could go toward construction and infrastructure needs at the health district.

The ARPA funds would cover windows, roof and building maintenance at the health district’s site to keep it in compliance with state and federal regulations. The funds would also go towards information and technology improvements at the health district.

The county commissioners will need to vote on and approve this funding before the next Spokane Board of Health meeting in December in order for the health district to have an approved budget ahead of the new year.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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