Spokane City Council to Consider Last Minute Special Budget Ordinance to Fund Spokane Fire Department

Lisa Gardner, City Council Communications Director, 509.625.6226

Tuesday, November 23, 2021 at 7:16 a.m.

During the Spokane City Council Public Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainability Committee meeting on Monday, a special budget ordinance was presented by administration to increase the expenditure appropriation levels for the Fire/EMS Fund by $5 million to be funded from the City’s Contingency Reserve account to cover unanticipated uniform overtime and staffing needs.

“I raised concern over the Fire Department’s overtime spending at the August 30th Public Safety & Community Health Committee meeting when I was given evidence by a firefighter that there was an approximately $500,000 overtime bill pending in the Fire Department at the time,” says Public Health & Community Health Chair and Councilwoman Lori Kinnear.   “When I raised my concerns at that public meeting, no adequate answers were forthcoming. Now, here we are at the eleventh hour with an ask that is astronomical compared to the initial overtime estimate. Both Council and the public need to know what happened, who is responsible, and how it is going to be fixed.”

According to a memo presented to Council, management and budget staff site budget position impacts due to vacant uniformed positions in 2020 with carryover into 2021. Additionally, the Fire Department experienced increases in leave utilization and required backfilling to maintain required staffing levels.

“This is very troubling as we want to pay our firefighters,” says Finance and Administrative Committee Chair and Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson. “However, I am asking for a detailed account of monies needed to date and what it will take to get to the end of the year.  Simply asking for a special budget ordinance of $5 million is unacceptable.”

This unexpected funding request comes to Council during its review of the proposed 2022 City budget presented by the Mayor in late October.  Council will likely consider action on November 29th but will continue to work with management and budget staff to determine the exact amount needed and the appropriate source of the additional funds.