Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740
Thursday, November 3, 2022 at 8:13 a.m.
Mayor Nadine Woodward finalized a balance priority-based 2023 budget today that emphasizes the continuation of fundamental municipal services and focuses on the people in our neighborhoods, people who need shelter, and people in the organization who deliver services to the community.
Public safety accounts for about 53% of the general fund budget. Investments also fund housing, homelessness, economic development, and operational considerations in an organization that has lost more than $37 million in revenue and experienced changing service demands during the pandemic. The $1.2 billion budget includes $229 million in general fund expenditures.
“Public safety remains a top priority with every neighborhood and business we visit,” Woodward said. “Neighborhoods are telling us they want to see more police officers in their neighborhoods and that is almost always followed by discussion about housing availability and affordability.”
Highlights from the 2023 budget include:
The proposed budget supports a change to the Spokane Police Department staffing model that will put more officers on patrol in neighborhoods. The Spokane Fire Department will also join a regional dispatch authority, which will sustain service levels that ensure help is dispatched at a more affordable cost to taxpayers. Changes to improve the speed and efficiency with which the City fills police and fire vacancies will also continue. Improvements to tracking, monitoring, and managing police and fire overtime, which has been strained even further in recent years, have also be proposed.
Finding new affordable inventory at greater volumes is the focus. Permit activity was strong through much of 2022. Rising interest rates to lessen the duration of the recession and drive economic growth and rising materials costs will cool that activity as we head into next year. A pilot program to provide more options in areas zoned for single-family development will be evaluated in 2023 with the expectation that, with the consideration of community feedback, it will produce continued opportunity. Investments in the Community and Economic Development division focus on decreasing permitting times and handling project review volumes, especially for multi-family projects, to help keep costs down and get units online more quickly.
Finding a roof to get people off the streets and out of fields continues to be a challenge. The 2023 budget invests in improved navigation center resources, a shift toward a model of providing essential support service connections in a place with a warm bed while individuals wait for individual housing placement. The approach has been successful in communities that have made the most progress in rehousing their homeless. Spokane has the same core assets in place to make the shift, which will require enhanced regional partnerships and fundamental changes in governing those assets to build and maintain a high-functioning system.
Federal pandemic relief funding has been identified for supporting small businesses and projects of citywide significance. That investment will continue the economic return of businesses coming out of the pandemic and straight into a recession. The return of a thriving business center following 3 years of extreme impacts during the pandemic that saw economic shutdown and a change in the workforce requires a concerted effort moving forward to support that return. Investments have also been made to grow the City’s efforts to better manage neighborhood cleanliness, solid waste collection, and street maintenance.
Organizational impacts to the City have paralleled the rest of the community and country. That includes challenges with recruiting and hiring employees. Investments have been made in employees through agreements with the seven open labor agreements. The City has renewed those contracts to expire on staggered years to prevent another year where they all expire at one time. It also includes an additional staffing in the Clerk’s Office to fill public records requests.
The City Council will hold budget hearings over the next month. They must approved a balanced budget by the end of the year.