It’s the holiday season, that special time of year when people gather to feast, exchange presents and finalize local government budgets.
On Nov. 9, Spokane Valley City Council approved a $108 million budget for 2022, an increase over 2021’s $98 million budget. The city isn’t raising property taxes.
“We continue to be in very good shape,” Spokane Valley City Manager Mark Calhoun said during an Oct. 5 preliminary budget presentation.
The city expects revenues of $96 million. An additional $12 million in grants brings the overall budget to $108 million. For comparison, Spokane’s 2022 budget will be over $1 billion.
Five new employees stand out as the most notable additions in the 2022 budget. The city will now have the equivalent of 101 full-time employees.
The city is hiring a project manager for the city manager’s office, a code enforcement supervisor, an assistant engineer to help handle new development, an employee who will help manage engineering and capital projects and an engineering technician who will help with infrastructure projects.
As always, a large chunk of Spokane Valley’s money is going toward law enforcement and public safety. The city plans to spend $31 million on public safety in 2022, nearly a third of its overall budget. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will receive $25 million of that. Spokane Valley contracts with the county for law enforcement, even though it often looks like it has its own police department.
Spokane Valley is putting $32 million into capital projects funds. The biggest numbers are $6 million for the street fund, $10 million for the street capital projects fund and $7 million for the pavement preservation fund.
That $7 million figure is particularly noteworthy. It might sound like a lot, but city staff have said Spokane Valley needs to spend $16 million a year on pavement preservation in order to prevent its roads from falling into disrepair.
Coming up with that money will be a challenge. Since 2009, the city has been using a 6% telephone utility tax to pay for road maintenance. As people have given up landlines, that fund has brought in less money. Spokane Valley is trying to find a long-term solution to the telephone tax drying up, but for now the city is increasingly using money from its general fund to pay for road work.
In 2022, the city expects to use $2.8 million of its general fund revenues to balance its street operations and maintenance fund. General fund dollars come primarily from property and sales taxes, and they’re mostly spent on day-to-day government operations such as City Hall employee salaries.
Calhoun told the City Council that the city’s strong financial situation is remarkable and the envy of many municipalities throughout Washington, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick agreed.
“I would put our finances in Spokane Valley against any city across the state,” Wick said.
Calhoun emphasized that avoiding debt and maintaining a balanced budget is incredibly important.
“We’ve been successful for so long we take it for granted,” Calhoun said. “I want to encourage council to not take it for granted. It could be fleeting. A couple of bad decisions and it’s gone.”
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