When Spokane Mayor David Condon ran for office last year, he promised he would approach city government differently than his predecessors. If his first budget proposal is any indication, he plans on following through on that promise.
In 2012, the City of Spokane will spend $164.5 million in its General Fund budget. The mayor says the 2013 budget will not exceed that number. Even though it is dealing with a $10 million shortfall, the mayor did not use any money from reserves to make that happen. The mayor is also forgoing an annual increase in property taxes.
The Spokane City Council has unanimously passed a plan supported by Mayor David Condon to throw out the city’s five-tier, punishing water structure.
The five-tier structure, put in place in 2010, at its highest level charged 23 times more for the last gallon of water used than for the first. The unfair, unneeded system was adopted by a previous administration and council to not only call attention to conservation, but also to “provide sustainable revenue” and protect the Rathdrum Prairie-Spokane Valley Aquifer.
The Pasco School District is one of the fastest-growing in the state of Washington. As a result, it faces increasing challenges to house its student population. From 2000 to 2010, Pasco School District’s enrollment skyrocketed from 8,850 to 15,127, a 71% increase. State officials predict the growth will continue. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) estimates 5,000 more students will be enrolled by 2016, bringing total enrollment to about 21,000 students.
Is it an excuse or reality? Pasco School District officials appear to be blaming non-English speaking and low income students for poor results in the state’s most recent Public School Accountability Index.
The index, released in January by Washington Policy Center, grades all of the state’s nearly 2,100 schools. The rankings offer parents and taxpayers a report card on how their child’s school is performing.
Spokane City Councilman Richard Rush is introducing a plan that, on the surface, appears to be a net positive for citizens. He will ask the city council tonight to put a proposition on the February ballot that would repeal the city’s utility tax.
The utility tax is one of the main revenue sources for Spokane. It is collected on sewer, water and garbage fees. Getting rid of it altogether would force the city to reduce future spending by some $30-35 million.
After much public outcry and extensive media coverage of research published by Washington Policy Center, city leaders in Spokane have announced they are going to review and possibly replace the city’s ill-conceived five tier water rate structure.
Earlier this year, the City of Spokane implemented a punishing five-tier price structure for water use for city homeowners. The message from government officials was clear – save water or we’ll charge you more.
Today, citizens are saving even more water than they did before, and the new message from councilmembers is contradictory – we’re going to charge you more, because you’re conserving. It’s not hard to figure out why Spokane homeowners are frustrated.
(UPDATE: The SRCAA voted unanimously Thursday to delay implementation of this rule for at least six months. Board members echoed WPC suggestions about looking at voluntary measures and understanding who would be impacted before any new regulation is adopted.)
The City of Spokane and Spokane Transit Authority have unanimously decided to move forward with plans for an electric trolleybus in Downtown Spokane. The decision, after more than a year of deliberation and input from a community Sounding Board, eliminated both a most expensive and least expensive option.
Government officials in the City of Spokane are asking for more taxes and broken promises in order to balance the city’s budget.
Mayor Mary Verner announced her budget this week. It would raise taxes and fees by $1.4 million on the citizens of Spokane. More than $400,000 of new revenue would come from red light camera fines, showing the cameras are not for public safety but are a mechanism to collect more money from citizens. Mayor Verner proposes diverting those dollars into the general fund.
Spokane Public School officials sent out 238 layoff notices to school district employees this week. District officials feel they don’t have enough state funding, despite the fact their budget is higher than it has ever been before, and they are educating 3,000 fewer students than they did just 10 years ago.
Among those who have been told they might be terminated:
Late last month, WPC submitted a column to the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane regarding Spokane's Central City Alternatives Analysis project. Spokane Transit Authority CEO Susan Meyer has graciously clarified some of the points made in that column. Her thoughts are bolded below.
An assistant superintendent for Spokane Public Schools made a surprising comment last night when addressing the district’s budget woes. Staci Vesneske, in an interview with KXLY4 News, said “what has happened is, as costs for education have risen, the state funding has not.”