Utility tax rebate available for low-income Liberty Lake residents

The Liberty Lake City Council approved an ordinance that offers rebates to low-income seniors and low-income disabled residents on their utility taxes.

To qualify for the rebate residents must live in Liberty Lake and be low-income, age 62 or older or totally and permanently disabled and low-income. Low income is disposable income at or below 50 percent of the median income of Spokane County as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a one-person household, the median income in Spokane County is $43,500.

Residents may apply for the rebate yearly. The first application period will be the 2011 calendar year.

In other council news, Police Chief Brian Asmus swore in two new police officers.

Officer Mike Bogenreif previously worked for the police department of Tekoa, Wash., is married and has four daughters. Officer Kevin Schmeckpeper comes to Liberty Lake from Post Falls, is married and has three children.

After the brief ceremony, Councilman David Crump noted his appreciation for the department.

“I appreciate the danger you live with every day,” Crump said.

The council also discussed its upcoming budget procedures and what they would like from city staff in the coming months to make the process easier. There was talk of having workshop meetings on the Tuesdays there is not a council meeting, or arriving before the regular council meetings to discuss the budget.

“I like the workshop process,” said Councilwoman Judi Owens. She noted that the council rules state the meetings start at 7 p.m., but that doesn’t mean the council can’t meet earlier and have the workshops open to the public.

Councilman Josh Beckett didn’t agree with the idea of extra meetings.

“I think we just don’t use our time all that wisely,” he said. He noted that it was 9:30 p.m. on a night with a soft agenda – that council members speak too long and the council as a whole tends to defer topics to future meetings. He used the recent invocation discussion as an example. The topic was introduced in February and didn’t come to a resolution until June.

Councilwoman Susan Schuler said she would like to see the budget information that is included in their packets sooner than the Friday before their meetings, perhaps as early as Wednesday. She also wanted to compare and contrast the budgets from 2007 to the present and she wanted to see the date from the city’s utility tax proposal.

Crump said he wanted to know about expected increases in costs in the city’s contracts, such as health insurance, and about expected cuts in revenue from the state.

Beckett wants to see what the city’s debt is and when those debts are scheduled to be retired.

Mayor Wendy Van Orman said the city department heads have been asked to present their budget estimates for 2012.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.

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