Verner issues executive order on hiring freeze & spending - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Verner issues executive order on hiring freeze & spending

SPOKANE, Wash. - City of Spokane Mayor Mary Verner today rolled out her initial balanced 2011 General Fund Budget.  The Mayor also issued an executive order that freezes hiring and dramatically limits spending in 2010 to assist with budget challenges.

"This is a serious response to a serious challenge," says Mayor Verner.  "We are tackling our budget challenges head on by using a thoughtful approach that will help preserve the services our citizens rely on."

Early in the year, the City's Finance Division forecast an approximately $10 million gap between revenues and expenses within the City's General Fund for 2011.  The City's General Fund for 2010 totals $161 million and includes revenues from property, sales, and utility taxes and pays for basic City services, including police, fire, libraries, parks, streets, and planning. 

Using a blend of targeted reductions, across-the-board departmental cuts, and available resources, the initial 2011 budget maintains the most critical services and is designed to poise the City for recovery from this economic downturn. 

As part of the budget, the pay of senior leaders has been frozen, work is under way to reduce the cost of employee benefits, and work schedule changes are anticipated. 

Not all services are spared, of course. Some 42 positions will be eliminated from the budget because of the reductions, impacting everything from police to fire to streets and more. Two more positions will be lost because grant funding will run out, and there's no money available in the General Fund to continue to pay for them.

The Neighborhood Resource Officer program will be greatly reduced, while rolling station closures are possible in the Fire Department.  The Street Department will lose one of two utility patch crews and general maintenance activities will slow. 

The Library budget will be reduced, Municipal Court will operate with three fewer clerks, and changes are planned in both the Public Defender's and Prosecutor's Offices.  The initial budget also includes the use of $2 million from the City's reserves.

"Understanding the significance of our financial challenges, we are presenting a proposed budget for 2011 some six months ahead of statutory requirements," says Mayor Verner.  "We wanted to ensure that citizens had adequate time to review the proposal and respond to it before the final budget is presented to City Council in the fall."

In addition to 2011 deficits, the City has financial challenges in the current year.  Revenues are coming in lower than budgeted, primarily in the area of private utility taxes.  To address that immediate concern, the Mayor's executive order freezes hiring and reduces current-year budgeted amounts for travel, registration and schooling, office supplies, software and related items by 50 percent.

These actions are in addition to the Mayor's decision early in the year to leave a number of management positions vacant for 2010. 

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