A packed room of anxious Spokane Valley homeowners broke into applause Tuesday night after the City Council voted 3-2 to fund curb-to-curb paving in Sherwood Forest, Mica Park, Johnston and other neighborhoods following county sewer projects slated for this summer.
“I really feel that to keep our city beautiful, we need the full-street paving,” said Patty Muncy, a 27-year Mica Park resident.
Muncy and 13 other people testified that, in the long run, paving the whole street would be more cost-effective, safer and better looking than just patching over the trenches cut in streets for sewer construction.
An unexpected increase in sales tax receipts and other revenues, along with significantly reduced cost estimates for the work, allowed the city to grant the citizens’ request even though Valley voters rejected a tax bond the council put on the ballot in September. City officials had told voters that if they did not pass the measure the city would have to patch roads rather than fully repave them.
No one testified Tuesday against the paving projects.
“I have the sense that the citizens of Spokane Valley would vote differently (on the street bond now), and I would suggest that you put it back on the ballot and let them express their point of view,” said Spokane Valley resident Bill Gothmann. His call for another ballot proposal was echoed by other speakers and council members, including the mayor.
Deputy Mayor Richard Munson and Councilman Michael DeVleming voted against the paving, citing the failed bond and the fickle nature of sales tax revenue.
“I’ve been told by (a slim majority) of the voters that they didn’t want to pay for this,” Munson said.
DeVleming said more residents might ask for paving next year, and the city might not have money to spare for the work.
For the past 20 years, Spokane County has installed sewer lines in Valley neighborhoods, to reduce the number of septic tanks above the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. For years, the county only patched the roads after the sewer work was done; full-width paving started in 1999.
The additional paving cost extra, but the county used money it receives from its property tax to pay for the work.
When Spokane Valley incorporation was being debated, city supporters touted the proposed city’s lower tax rate. The owner of a $100,000 home pays $21 less each year under city rule than under county rule.
But lagging projections for sales tax revenues threatened funding for the paving, and the council proposed a bond that would increase the property tax rate to the county level for six years in order to fund the work.
About 49 percent of those who voted on the measure supported the bond; it needed 60 percent approval to pass.
After talking with the contractors picked for sewer work, the city learned that full-width paving would cost less than half of what had been projected.
Even with the reduced cost, though, repaving in future years would come at the cost of one or two other road projects each year. The city will not be able to fund those projects and full-width paving, both, if revenues stay at their current level, according to the city’s public works department.