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Spokane City Council approves $1.1 billion budget

Nick Bramhall via flickr

The Spokane City Council has unanimously approved next year’s budget, setting aside funds for affordable housing and adding new police, and fire positions.

When city leaders originally sat down for budget talks, the situation looked dire. New labor contracts increased pay for most city workers by at least five percent. Both the Police, and Fire department had large overtime bills in addition to the increase in all costs due to inflation.

The roughly $1.1 billion budget approved Monday addressed those issues said Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs during the Monday meeting.

“The budget that we were handed in early November went into the red compared to revenues by $2.6 million dollars,” Beggs said. “The proposal was just taking that out of our savings account. We have reversed that and now we're not going into the red in terms of revenue and it looks like a modest surplus of $200,000, and we hope with our midterm correction we'll continue to grow that surplus so that we can have a fighting chance in the budget that we prepare for 2024.”

Beggs said addressing the overtime crisis hopefully will make the city’s finances more sustainable long-term. Police and firefighters in the last several years have been among the cities highest paid employees as many worked long hours to make up for understaffing. The budget adds nine traffic unit police officers and thirty firefighters in hopes of reducing the city’s dependence on overtime.

Spokane City Council Michael Cathcart voted yes on the budget for the first time since he’s taken office, saying it made investments in public safety and set the city on the path of replenishing its reserves.

“My biggest priority is public safety,” Cathcart said. “Obviously that is one of the biggest parts to local government, and one of our biggest expenses. If we're not smart up front today, that is something that we'll have to be sacrificing down the road and I just don't want to see us be put in that situation. I would rather make the good, and the hard decisions today to protect us from those tomorrow.”

The budget submitted by Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward also allocated taxes designated for affordable housing to homeless shelters. The city council reallocated those funds back to affordable housing and used alternate funds for shelters.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.