This year, it was the Boundary Review Board that was cut by the Spokane County Board of Commissioners.
In 2013, it’s the Martin Hall Juvenile detention Facility that’s getting the ax.
So goes another squeaky-tight county budget, which is expected to be passed next Monday by commissioners.
On Tuesday, the $140.1 million general fund budget was parsed by county officials, who are looking to save $319,000 by eliminating funding for Medical Lake’s Martin Hall. Instead, a new juvenile corrections officer will be hired in order to handle the increased workload at the downtown facility.
However, the county could still make use of Martin Hall, if necessary.
“If we need to go to Martin Hall, we still can,” said Marshall Farnell, county CEO. Otherwise, the county doesn’t plan to make use of five beds that it has funded since 1995 when the facility opened near Eastern State Hospital. Those beds have become less needed as other programs, including electronic monitoring, have become staples of alternate sentencing.
County officials also plan on hiring a maintenance person along with a campus security officer for the courthouse campus.
Commissioner Mark Richard said he is of two minds over the latter hire, saying he agrees that the position makes “good sense” given the right job description, but he would not like to see the county pay for extra security on weekends when some judges may be overseeing weddings.
“I’m not sure that’s a good reason,” he said.
Farnell said there should be a 9-percent budget carryover going into 2014, “which is pretty good.” He added that next year will be another cycle with no significant expenditures or programs added.
Various county departments were asked to make a 1.5-percent reduction to their budget in order to keep the overall county balance from growing. Still, this time around the commissioners agreed to take advantage of a 1-percent annual increase in property taxes for those living in the unincorporated areas of the county, which is expected to net $402,000 – which amounts to about $1.26 for the owner of $100,000 home.
Overall, board Chairman Al French said the budget continues to reflect the county’s “fiscally sound approach” going into 2013.
“We’re trying to be good stewards,” he said. “We’re still waiting and holding our breath (for the economy to turn around.” We’ve seen glimmers of that, but we’re not jumping up and down.”
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich expressed disappointment, however, saying his office continues to “do more with less.”
“I’m getting concerned that our public safety image is being hurt across the board,” he said. “We have to address revenues in order to keep this county safe.”
Richard said that the commissioners have had the philosophy of growing business and sales-tax base rather than looking for new taxes to impose on property owners.
“We would rather grow the pie,” he said.