Mayor Verner: Budget cuts would mean 'huge steps back' - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mayor Verner: Budget cuts would mean 'huge steps back'

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner Spokane Mayor Mary Verner
Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick
Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer

SPOKANE, Wash. - The most notable cuts stemming from a projected $7 million budget shortfall faced by the City of Spokane are coming from the public safety sector which will absorb about 60 percent of the shortfall.

As police officers and firefighters brace for the worst, city officials say they won't be the only ones feeling the crunch and warn you could notice the cuts too.

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said her department could see 15 officers and one clerk cut as well as demotions to make up about $2 million. Cutting $2 million would require 25 positions be cut, however the police department has nine vacant positions that would simply not be filled to help meet that amount should the cuts move forward.

Kirkpatrick says she has to think like a business woman and think of the cuts as positions but adds that can be tough.

"When I sit across the way from the person in tears, that's not a position, that's a person I'm dealing with," says Kirkpatrick. "I've just told them I'm taking your income stream away... when you have that person sitting across from you, stunned looking, hurt and scared, it's not a position."

Kirkpatrick added that she feels 'personally badly' because she's the one who brought them to Spokane from all over the country. She says the last officer hired, who would be the first one to go, came to Spokane from Kansas.

Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer says about 15 firefighters would have to be cut and a fire station may face closure to account for $1.3 million.

"The number of cuts that the fire department has already taken over the last 20 years has eliminated much of the things that are non-people," says Schaeffer. "Really all we have left is money to repair fire trucks, fuel fire trucks and outfit firefighters and the firefighters themselves."

The estimated dollar amount of the cuts comes after Mayor Verner requested department heads present what their budgets would look like after a 4.07 percent budget cut.

While 60 percent of the cuts are planned to come out of the public safety sector, the rest, according to city officials, will come from any department or service that draws money from the city's general fund.

Thursday, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner commented that $7 million is not a small deficit and said Spokane residents may very well feel the impending cuts.

"We would not be able to have as quick a turnaround time regardless of the request. If you want more repairs done on public infrastructure, those are less likely to happen as quickly," said Mayor Verner. "We've been working so hard to improve our services... this would be major steps back for us in just about every department in the city."

Mayor Verner added the city does maintain a 'rainy day' fund but said it's not nearly enough to cover all costs.

There is a chance Spokane residents may see a small increase in taxes as well, however that has yet to be been determined.

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