Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown proposes two measures to curb spending



(The Center Square) – Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown proposed two cost-saving measures on Thursday in an attempt to turn the tide as the city faces an approximately $50 million structural deficit.

The first measure echoes Brown’s warnings when proposing her Community Safety Levy in April. The property tax measure could’ve raised roughly $40 million annually, plugging up much of the deficit, but Brown also said at the time that if the levy wasn’t passed it could mean around 200 people losing their jobs.

Now, after pulling her levy from the August Ballot, Brown is proposing a retirement incentive for the Spokane Police Department. The measure would offer up to $1,000 monthly if officers agree to participate by Aug. 1 and retire by Sept. 1.

“Cost savings must happen as part of closing the structural gap in the City’s budget,” Brown said in a news release. “Every amount saved contributes to our overall goal of fiscally responsible budgeting while providing essential City services.”

While the measure still needs the city council’s approval, it culminated through a discussion with SPD, the Spokane Police Guild and the Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association to activate a clause in their collective bargaining agreement with the unions representing them.

Eligible officers include those who are at least 50 years old, but their age and time served must add up to 70 years or more to receive any money, according to the city’s new release. While the initial deadline to apply is Aug. 1, if they agree to participate by Sept. 1, Spokane will pay the officer $800 a month, assuming they retire by the end of the year.

“This would not only support longevity within the department for young officers and make room for the next generation of our department, said Annastasia Winters, a sergeant with the Spokane Police Guild, in the release, “but also greatly benefit officers who have dedicated a large portion of their lives to the City of Spokane.”

The second cost-saving measure would require Brown’s cabinet to take two mandatory furlough days by the end of the year, which is estimated to save roughly $30,000 altogether, according to the release; however, the city failed to note how much it could save with its retirement incentive.

While Spokane is expected to end the year around $500,000 under what it had initially budgeted for 2024, its overarching structural deficit is still looming on the horizon.

Earlier this week, the city council approved an emergency ordinance shifting Spokane toward a biennial budget model. The shift is intended to help the city get control over its finances by allowing it to strategically allocate resources over longer periods instead of investing in the short term.

Brown also proposed a two-book outlook for next year. Book one considers a 2025 budget without allocating any one-time funds toward recurring expenditures; however, it involves a 10% citywide budget reduction with inevitable personnel cuts. The other scenario looks at how the budget would fare if Brown’s Community Safety Levy had reached the ballot and passed.

Regardless, Spokane’s annual operating budget is around $1.2 billion, and it continues to grow as its elected officials attempt to dig themselves out of a $50 million hole.

The Spokane City Council is expected to pass corrections to the city’s 2024 budget on July 8 and start the 2025 process in the coming months.

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