November 6, 2013 in City

Fairchild Air Force Base tax outcome uncertain

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A tax measure to protect Fairchild Air Force Base from civilian encroachment was trailing in Tuesday night’s count, but the race was too close to call.

Spokane County Proposition 1 received a 51 percent “no” vote out of nearly 80,000 ballots counted so far.

The measure, if approved, would raise as much as $18 million in property taxes over nine years to buy manufactured home parks at the northeast end of the Fairchild runway and relocate hundreds of people living there.

County commissioners placed the measure on the ballot to increase the chances that Fairchild will remain open in the future.

“Obviously, half of the voters understood the importance of the base to the local economy,” Commissioner Al French said.

“Hopefully, there will be a swing to the positive and we will be able to protect Fairchild,” he said.

The measure would raise taxes by 6.3 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, costing the owner of a $200,000 home an extra $12.60 a year.

A total of 188 housing units in seven mobile home parks are eyed for acquisition. They’re in an “accident potential zone” and considered by the Air Force to be an encroachment.

The tax measure comes after years of work to eliminate other encroachments, including rerouting the Geiger Spur rail line off the base.

Commissioners said Fairchild generates $1.3 billion in local economic activity annually.

While there was no organized opposition, concerns about the measure surfaced last month.

Spokane City Council members voted 4-1 to endorse the ballot measure with the “no” vote coming from Councilman Mike Fagan, who pointed out that McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas was selected for the first new Boeing KC-46A refueling tankers despite encroachment there.

He said commissioners should look at other possibilities for moving the homes.

The Spokane Valley City Council declined to endorse the measure, suggesting that other options were not explored.

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