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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane judge rules property tax exemptions legal

UPDATED: Wed., April 29, 2015

The property tax exemption granted to about 4,700 Spokane residents following passage of a roads levy in November was legal, a judge ruled earlier this month. Spokane County Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke said an ordinance extending a property tax exemption to elderly and disabled residents passed by the Spokane City Council on Feb. 9 was constitutional, over the objections of Spokane County and the Department of Revenue, in a decision handed down Friday. The decision, in its entirety, can be read below:

City of Spokane v. Spokane County, et al.

The City of Spokane sued Spokane County in February, when it learned property tax notices were being sent to residents who had previously been granted the property tax exemption, but who the county and the Department of Revenue said no longer applied following the passage of a road levy measure by a majority of voters in November. The county cited a letter from the Department of Revenue advising that the City of Spokane did not have the authority to pass a local ordinance exempting some residents from a property tax increase created by the vote. City leaders campaigned in favor of the ballot measure using the promise there would be no tax increases as a result of the ballot measure. Property tax notices have already been mailed, and the first half of 2015 payments are due tomorrow. Clarke ordered the city and county to meet and decide how best to resolve the issue, under the assumption that those eligible for the exemption had already paid their higher bills. Spokane City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Clarke’s “definitive ruling” was a win for the city’s low-income, elderly and disabled residents. “We’re ready to move forward and get those bills corrected,” she said. “We’re anxious to get that done.” County spokeswoman Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter said Wednesday the county’s attorneys were reviewing Clarke’s decision and would wait for direction from the Department of Revenue. The decision could be appealed to the state’s appellate or Supreme Court. Feist said the city would likely continue to fight for the exemption in higher courts if the ruling is appealed.
This story is developing and more information will be added as it is available.
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