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Spokane City Council approves special ordinances to balance 2024 budget

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(The Center Square) – The City of Spokane passed five special budget ordinances, or SBO, on Monday to correct its 2024 budget before starting to draft next year’s in the coming months.

The ordinances shift money around Spokane’s various funds, which make up its approximately $1.2 billion budget. The approval puts Spokane on track to finish the year with a balanced budget, breaking the cycle that snowballed into its $50 million structural deficit.

During a prior meeting, Mayor Lisa Brown noted that the city could end the year approximately $500,000 under what it initially budgeted for with its General Fund. However, the city council chose to pull the surplus instead and reinvest the money into Spokane’s Traffic Calming Fund.

The first SBO made adjustments to the city’s Enterprise funds. The ordinance reappropriated about $1.4 million to the city’s Water-Wastewater Fund to account for utility tax revenue that trended over budget. It also appropriated about $3.35 million to the Solid Waste Fund, with some also arising from the utility tax revenue.

The second SBO included adjustments to the General Fund, increasing revenue by about $1.8 million to pay for police overtime, three new positions and the “Non Departmental department.”

The SBO then increases General Fund appropriations by roughly $2.8 million for everything from law enforcement and the Finance Department to the Budget Office and more. Since the fund is the most flexible, it’s used for a variety of purposes, with an emphasis on police and fire.

However, the second SBO also decreases appropriations by over $900,000 to account for the wages of eliminated positions, other cuts, and transfers to and from various departments.

The third SBO adjusts the city’s Internal Services funds. First, increasing revenue in the Fleet Services Fund by $2.4 million for contracts, repairs and maintenance. Then, decreasing appropriations to the Management Information Services Fund by around $206,000.

The SBO then decreases appropriations to the Reprographics Fund by roughly $37,000 and the Utility Billing Fund by $1,800.

The fourth SBO adjusts the Special Revenue funds, decreasing appropriations to the Public Safety and Crime Reduction Fund by over $113,000 to account for an eliminated position, then to the Library Fund and Park Fund for a combined decrease of $3,000.

That SBO also increases appropriations to the Forfeitures and Contributions Funds by roughly $520,000 for several law enforcement expenditures and another $50,000 to the Traffic Calming Measures Fund for fleet maintenance.

The last SBO passed on Monday made various adjustments to pay ranges throughout the local government in light of the city’s salary analysis.

In an email to The Center Square, Erin Hut, the city’s director of Communications and Marketing, clarified the adjustments and current state of the 2024 budget.

“It’s a bit more nuanced than just being over or under budget,” Hut wrote in the email. “Per law, the City has to operate within a balanced budget and we are doing so now. When we refer to the $50 million deficit, that is a structural gap. In other words, long-term commitments were made without identifying funds to uphold those commitments.”

Still, Brown said in April that the General Fund deficit had grown to $25 million since 2019, with reserves sinking from $28.4 million to around $7.6 million. Regardless, the city anticipates finishing the year with a balanced budget before tackling its structural gap in the next one.

“Simply put, the city is still on budget, the city’s reserves are unchanged, and the city’s traffic calming fund has been slightly increased,” Hut wrote in the email.

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