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Art in Spokane may soon get some new patrons: film junkies, Zags fans and concertgoers. Under a proposal by City Council President Ben Stuckart, arts funding would jump from $80,000 to about $250,000 a year. The funding would come from the city’s admissions tax, an existing charge on every ticket sold to enter a venue or attend an event, including movies, sporting events, concerts and art shows. A third of the tax taken in by the city would go to arts funding.
Quick growth in Spokane’s collection of investments, and a predilection by city leaders to dip into the investment pool to fund one-time projects, has led at least one Spokane City Council member to suggest that practice runs afoul of the city charter. For the 20th time, the city of Spokane is planning to borrow money from itself, as the council considers on Monday whether to support the city administration’s plan to borrow $5 million from the Spokane Investment Pool. The latest loan would help pay for the recently completed, $17 million Central Service Center in east Spokane.
For many years in Spokane’s early history as a city, the Howard Street bridges were the only way to get across the Spokane River, not counting wading, swimming or taking a ferry. Traffic first crossed the three bridges in 1881, and for much of the following century vehicles traveled from the river’s north bank and over the islands before finally crossing under the tall trestles of the elevated Union Pacific rail lines and into downtown Spokane. Factories surrounded the traffic, milling lumber, wheat and power in what is now Riverfront Park.
An ongoing audit of taxes paid by telephone companies operating in Spokane has turned up $700,000 in unexpected funds for the city, including more than $500,000 in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties from CenturyLink. Along with funds from T-Mobile, the money discovered so far comes from just two companies, and city officials say there’s likely more to come, though they couldn’t predict how much in unpaid tax remains. “That’s a number I can’t even tell you. There’s no way of knowing,” said Tim Dunivant, the city’s budget director, noting that every telephone company operating in Spokane will have its tax bill examined. “All the big ones. Even some of the small ones. Verizon we just completed, and everything was fine.”
If there’s one thing Jim West would want to be remembered for, it’s probably pavement. In his race to become Spokane’s mayor in 2003, West promised to remake the city’s pockmarked streets into ribbons of smooth asphalt.
For the second year in a row, Spokane administrators committed several violations of rules for handling federal money, a state audit has found. In response, some Spokane City Council members are questioning if safeguards enacted earlier this year are being ignored.
A second police precinct, a steady stream of newly trained officers and a race to the deadline for a cleaner Spokane River dominates Mayor David Condon’s 2015 budget proposal, which he released Tuesday. By holding a news conference in front of a Hillyard building at Market Street and Diamond Avenue – long used by the police department for storage but destined to become home to the city’s second precinct – Condon made clear what he considered the highlight of his budget plan: investments to public safety.
Spokane leaders have promised to take an annual 1 percent property tax increase through 2016 to help fund $26 million worth of new vehicles and equipment for the fire and police departments. It’s a strategy that allows the city to make significant purchases without asking voters for new taxes.
Investigators have discovered a number of mistakes in how Spokane receives and handles federal grant money, leading the city’s finance director to say the findings “could impact our ability to receive federal grants.” The mistakes were made with grant money from 2012 primarily going to the city’s Community, Housing and Human Services Department, but a state auditor also found errors involving grant disbursement to the police department.
The only monuments to Playfair Commerce Park’s past are two stone slabs topped by metal silhouettes of horses, their crouched riders guiding them toward the finish line. The business park is located on 48 acres in east Spokane that hosted the Playfair horse racing track for 66 years.
At the same time he has proposed eliminating 100 jobs, Spokane Mayor David Condon is calling for big raises in the 2013 budget for administrators in the city’s finance division. The increases have sparked concern among some City Council members, especially since the raises weren’t mentioned during a City Council briefing about the finance department’s proposed budget last week.
Spokane Mayor David Condon on Wednesday fired another high-ranking administrator. Ellen Hung, the city’s treasurer, was told Wednesday that she will be terminated, said Spokane’s Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley.
The city of Spokane may sever its contract with its risk management firm following allegations that the firm pressured police and a city employee to hide potentially incriminating details surrounding a 2010 collision that paralyzed a pedestrian. According to documents obtained by lawyers representing the paralyzed woman, the city’s contracted insurance adjusters were able to influence the removal of certain details from the official press release about the crash, and reportedly sought to influence the police investigation.
The City of Spokane may sever its contract with its risk management firm following allegations that the firm pressured police and a city employee to hide potentially incriminating details surrounding a 2010 collision that paralyzed a pedestrian.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner gave a preview Wednesday of a 2012 budget she says would be painless for residents who obey the law. Verner proposed to close a tentative $6.6 million revenue shortfall with a combination of administrative actions and $1.4 million in new revenue that would require council approval.
Local governments are fighting a federal order to send the IRS 3 percent of what they owe their suppliers and contractors. Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton estimates the unfunded congressional mandate, which takes effect in January, will cost the county around $100,000 in staff time for preparations.
Spokane’s decision to call in private grader operators to help clear roads adds an extra financial burden in an already cash-strapped year. But officials say the need to maintain passable streets is one of the few good reasons to dip into reserves. The city put grader contracts out to bid this fall and is paying seven companies between $95 and $125 per hour for each of a dozen graders. That’s for use of the equipment and the staffing to operate them. The city also is using its plows and 10 of its own graders.
The state Board of Accountancy has cleared Spokane’s Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley of falsely labeling himself a certified public accountant. In a letter to Cooley, Rick Sweeney, the executive director of the board, said board members dismissed the allegation on Oct. 13.