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City Faces Cuts To Pay Off Street Repair Loan Gas-Tax Failure Threatens Services, But Talbott Says Money Is There

Thu., Nov. 6, 1997

Spokane residents likely will feel the pinch as the city squeezes money from its budget to pay off a loan used to fix streets last summer.

City officials had hoped to pay off the $2.66 million loan with their share of a local gasoline tax. But that tax was rejected overwhelmingly by voters countywide on Tuesday.

The city will have to convert the short-term loan into one with a longer payback. Then officials will have to find money from other departments.

City Manager Bill Pupo said that means probable cuts in services.

But John Talbott, the likely mayor-elect, contends there’s fat that can be cut without hurting services.

“Where are we going to get the money?” Talbott said. “That’s a decision we might have to say rests with the city manager. We may have to tell him to come up with (the money) out of the budget.”

Talbott said he opposes borrowing more money as “just another way of putting the monkey on the back of the taxpayers.”

He opposed the gas tax and also a $37.5 million street bond issue that city voters rejected last year.

The council probably won’t find enough waste within the city’s spending plan to pay back the loan, said Councilman Jeff Colliton.

“We’ve got council members looking at where we can get the money all the time,” he said.

The tax of 2.3 cents on every gallon of fuel would have raised $4.7 million a year for five years. About $1.8 million would have gone to the city, $2.7 million to the county and $200,000 to small towns in the county.

Spokane County Commissioner Phil Harris said county roads will remain “usable” even without the additional money. They’re in much better shape than city streets.

“It (the ballot loss) just means that the citizens aren’t going to see a lot of the improvements they’d like to see,” Harris said. “If we had the money to do more intensive preventive maintenance, then we could take the steps to make the roads last longer” and ultimately save money.

The city’s more dire predicament was reflected in the election results. The tax passed in only 42 of 389 precincts. All but two of the supporting neighborhoods are in the city of Spokane.

The tax wasn’t approved in any small-town precincts.

Fewer than three in 10 voters supported the tax in the Valley, the woods and suburbs north of Spokane and the farm country of southern Spokane County.

There was more support in the 6th Legislative District, which includes the South Hill and part of the North Side. But even there, supporters were outnumbered by opponents by 7 percent. , DataTimes

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