City council to vote on property tax levy at Monday meeting
SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane City Council is expected to vote on a property tax levy to generate funds for public safety needs on Monday. If passed, a special election would be held in February.
Property owners would pay an additional 30 cents for every $1000 of assessed value.
“So if you have a home that’s worth $100,000 , it’d be $30. if you have a $200,000 dollar home, it’d be $60 dollars a year,” said City Council President Ben Stuckart.
The levy would generate about 5.8 million dollars, to be divided between several city agencies, including some legal services. But Stuckart says the bulk of the funds would be used to staff the police and fire departments.
A federal SAFER grant allowed the Spokane Fire Department to bring on more than 40 new officers. The grant expires next year, though all the crews hired will stay on through the year, as provided for in the city’s 2019 budget.
But, Stuckart says the levy would allow the department to keep 30 of those crews on the force.
“Because I don’t want to be in a position at the end of next year where we’re still not caught up on police and we’re laying off a whole bunch of firefighters,” he said.
The funds would also be used to hire 20 new police officers. Stuckart says some of those hires would be added to the downtown area, others as neighborhood resource officers and the department would be able to staff more property crime detectives.
“People get frustrated when you call Crime Check, report that you’ve been robbed, and you get a call back saying ‘Yeah we probably won’t have anybody responding,'” Stuckart said.
Stuckart references a 2-17 study suggesting that the Spokane POlice Department needed to add about 40 officers. The 2018 city budget added ten, and 2019’s will do the same. Stuckart says the spots that would be funded by the levy would “catch us up.”
KXLy reached out to the city to ask for Mayor David Condon’s thoughts, but has not heard back.
“Taxes should be the last resort. But I also know that the most important thing to citizens is public safety,” Stuckart said.
The council president said he and the other members of the council field concerns about it all the time.
“We all pick up our phones, we all read our emails, we know what the concerns of the citizens are. This is an important one to them,” he said.
Which is why, he says, the people of Spokane should get the opportunity to vote on the issue. If passed by the council, a special election would be held in early February.
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