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Spokane County leaders may abandon tax hike proposal, cut jail funds instead

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 15, 2017, 1:05 p.m.

The Spokane County commissioners may walk away from a proposal to raise property taxes to fix an estimated $10 million budget shortfall.

Commissioners Al French, Josh Kerns and Shelly O’Quinn last month approved a ballot initiative that would give voters the option to raise property taxes by up to 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. It was one of O’Quinn’s last votes before she resigned to lead the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.

On Monday, county spokesman Jared Webley said French and Kerns may vote to pull the measure from the ballot during their Tuesday afternoon meeting. He said county officials recently finished analyzing the state’s operating budget, which raises property taxes to increase funding for public schools, and are reconsidering the additional burden the county measure would place on residents.

French has attributed the budget shortfall largely to declining sales tax revenue.

Webley said the county has reached an agreement with the city of Spokane to work together in an attempt to address the shortfall. He said the solution likely would involve cutting funds from the county’s detention facilities.

“There’s a lot of options that they’ve talked about,” Webley said. “Detention Services takes up such a huge chunk of the budget, and if they do have to make cuts, that’s where a lot of the cuts would have to come from.”

A news conference is scheduled after the commissioners’ meeting featuring French, Kerns, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Prosecutor Larry Haskell, Detention Services Director John McGrath, Spokane City Councilwoman Candace Mumm and City Administrator Theresa Sanders.

Editor’s note: This story was changed on August 15, 2017 to highlight that the agreement that county leaders have reached with city leaders is to consider ways to balance the budget without raising taxes. The agreement does not by itself fix the shortfall.


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