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Commissioners to vote on Spokane County property tax increase

November 27, 2018

Spokane County commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to take a 1 percent property tax increase that could help fund basic county services, road construction and property acquisitions for the Conservation Futures program.

Approving the tax increase could generate more than $542,600 in annual revenue for the county’s general fund; $304,700 for its road fund; and $20,000 to acquire and preserve land through the Conservation Futures program.

The county has taken the 1 percent property tax increase every year for the past decade to sustain “core services and minimize the impact of budgetary reductions,” said Tonya Wallace, the county’s chief budget officer.

The resolution – if passed – is likely to not include a shift in “banked capacity” to the county’s general fund. Banked capacity is the difference between the amount the county is allowed to levy and the amount it actually does levy in a year. That amount is banked for potential future use rather than lost.

Spokane County faced a $9.4 million budget shortfall last year and commissioners were split on whether to use funds earmarked for roads toward operating expenses in 2018.

Commissioners Al French and Mary Kuney voted last year to transfer $4.5 million which could have been used for road construction to the county’s general fund to cover operating expenses. Commissioner Josh Kerns opposed the decision. He said there was room for cuts in other areas.

French said in October that past financial pressures created by the Legislature and the Growth Management Act have forced counties to shift money reserved for roads to their general funds. He added that Spokane County already is reducing its reliance on reserve road funds and is planning to rely on other revenue sources, such as sales tax.

Kuney said it’s anticipated the county won’t shift additional road fund banked capacity to the general fund in 2019, partly because of a boost in sales tax revenue.

“One of my goals coming in at the end of last year was to not do the road shift,” she said. “That’s a win and we got that win this year.”

The 1 percent property tax increase isn’t expected to have a significant impact on property taxes for residents, although tax amounts are dependent on several factors, such as how much home valuations changed over last year and levy amounts imposed by other taxing districts.

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