Leafy spurge and common bugloss may have funny-sounding names, but to many in Spokane County they are no laughing matter.
They are among dozens of noxious weeds that must be controlled under state law.
Until now, the responsibility for funding weed control in Spokane County has been uneven – property owners in the county, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake pay, while those in Spokane and other smaller cities don’t.
County workers in charge of controlling noxious weeds would like to change that. They want all property owners to pay a small amount each year to boost weed-control funding.
As Spokane has grown, weed problems have evolved from a largely agricultural concern to one that includes large suburban lots and urban vacant lots, officials said.
It has become a more “urban-, suburban-type problem,” said Dave Mundt, coordinator of the county’s Noxious Weed Board.
Under state law, property owners are required to control or eradicate noxious weeds on their property. The county has enforcement power.
Currently, the county collects $3 a year as a property tax assessment in unincorporated Spokane County, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake.
Property owners in Spokane and the county’s other small cities pay nothing for weed control on their property tax bills. The cities of Spokane, Airway Heights, Deer Park and Cheney, however, make small contributions to the weed control fund each year.
Mundt said the board would like to expand the assessment to all parcels in the county, including those inside of all city limits.
Mundt told County Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn in a meeting earlier this week that the board would like to reduce the minimum charge from $3 a year to $2 a year and impose the smaller amount countywide.
“It would bring everyone into the pot,” Mundt said.
While most property owners would pay the minimum amount, large property owners would pay a per-acre assessment of up to 12 cents an acre on top farmland.
Changing the assessments would increase the weed control budget by 16 percent, to $442,000 annually. The additional money would be used for technology improvements to help the county’s eight part-time weed inspectors keep track of problems.
Mundt said weed board members had discussed making the charge $3 countywide, but they believed that would be asking for too much.
O’Quinn said she agreed and would consider the $2 annual assessment.
Previously, officials in Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley had complained that their property owners were required to pay the assessment while owners in Spokane and other cities got off without a charge.
The weed board is planning an informational session for city officials April 16 and may recommend expanding the assessment in May or June. That recommendation would go to the county commissioners for action.
The soonest the change could take effect would be on tax bills for 2015.
Tracie Oxford, office manager for the weed board, said the office receives “hundreds and hundreds” of complaints about weeds each year.