Mayor Verner addresses City's financial future - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mayor Verner addresses City's financial future

SPOKANE, Wash. - At the Spokane City Council's regular Monday meeting, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner detailed the steps she has been taking to address the financial pressures faced by the City now and for the immediate and long-term future.  The City anticipates several million dollars in expenditure reductions will be necessary to balance the City's General Fund budget for 2010.  

"We must be good stewards of resources entrusted to us by the citizens of Spokane," the Mayor says.  "For 2009, the City avoided many of the problems of comparable local governments in our nation.  We were able to maintain current levels of service, avoid budget reductions, and keep reserve funds whole to weather a longer economic downturn.  We always knew that 2010 would be more difficult, and we have planned a path forward."

The Mayor detailed her work that includes:

Ongoing restrictions on hiring and spending.  The Mayor has continued a moratorium on new positions not already in the budget, hiring restrictions, and strict controls on spending to help create savings in the 2009 budget.
Evaluating all parts of the budget and making swift changes.  Early this year, the City eliminated nine positions in the Building Enterprise Fund to respond to the downturn in construction, particularly new housing starts. 
Employee-led innovation.  A group of employees are being training in Lean Six Sigma techniques and will lead efforts to find efficiencies and cost savings throughout the City organization.  This change initiative should enable us to be more nimble and focus on "value-added" activities for our citizens. 
A comprehensive review of City operations to identify possible budget reductions and savings opportunities.  The Mayor's Executive Team is working to identify ways to make reductions Citywide and within departmental budgets.  Everything-from modified work schedules to health care plan reform to regionalization of services-is on the table.  A workshop with the City Council has been set for Thursday, March 26, to start digging into the options.

When she delivered her proposed 2009 budget last fall, Mayor Verner announced that at least $2.3 million in reductions would be necessary for 2010.  As the national recession has continued, the City's Finance Division has relayed that cuts needed for 2010 will likely total $5 million or more.  The Mayor has said she will have a budget plan together for 2010 no later than mid-year.

The City's 2009 General Fund budget totals $155.5 million.  The General Fund pays for police, fire, streets, parks, and libraries, among other things.  General Fund revenues include property, utility, and sales taxes.

The Mayor's thoughtful and systematic approach to maintaining the City's financial health already has received positive support from people and businesses in the community.  In particular, the City's work to train employees in Lean Six Sigma techniques has received praise. 

Company leaders from Honeywell Spokane, Sterling Savings Bank, Itron, and Pearson Packaging, among others, have expressed their support of the City's efforts in this regard. 

"Over the last half-dozen years, our City has dramatically improved our financial position through the creation of reserve accounts and strict principles governing the use of taxpayer dollars.  We must continue on this path, even though it is difficult, to ensure that the City is well-positioned to provide the services our citizens need into the future," Mayor Verner says.

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