The Cheney City Council took time out of its meeting Tuesday to publicly oppose Initiative 1033, brought forth by Tim Eyman, which limits state, county and city governments by restricting how much they can increase spending each year. The formula for deciding spending increases relies on inflation and population growth.
Finance clerk Cindy Niemeier told the council she would explain why the city should oppose the initiative and said that anyone with a differing view would have time to express that opinion when she finished.
She said the positive aspect of the initiative would be that it would reduce the property tax levy. However, the negative aspects include reducing general fund revenues, which would limit the city’s ability to deal with unexpected costs such as emergency snow removal, there would be no incentive for economic development and since the cost of governmental services rise faster than the Implicit Price Deflator (contracted labor, employee insurance, mandated contributions by the city to the county, state and federal governments, and construction and maintenance costs), the city could lose money. The city could dip into its reserve fund if it needed to, but that fund could soon run out.
She told the council that within five years the city could lose over half a million dollars.
Councilman Tom Trulove pointed out that the economic base of the city, if you looked at who employs its residents, could be severely impacted.
He said the number one employer in Cheney was Eastern Washington University, followed by the Cheney School District, the Cheney Care Center and the city, all of which depend on state and local funding.
“The whole fabric of our community would be ripped apart by this,” Trulove said.
One resident in attendance at the meeting asked how this would impact the services offered by law enforcement and the fire department and if the initiative passed, was there something Cheney could do to keep those employees from losing their jobs.
City Administrator Arlene Fisher said the city could draw from savings until that fund ran out, and Niemeier said the voters could chose to tax themselves as well.
Trulove said that elections weren’t free and it would be costly for the city to have an election every year to maintain the services they already have.
Councilwoman Teresa Overhauser took issue with the initiative as well.
“Cheney has never once passed a Tim Eyman initiative,” she said, but they have always had to live with the consequences. She said an initiative like 1033 has real impact on a city like Cheney.
“I love the city of Cheney because they’ve said no every time,” she said.
The council voted unanimously to oppose the initiative.
The next Cheney city council meeting will be held Nov. 10.