Spokane Valley City Council member Ed Pace tried for a second time to persuade the council to lower the property tax in the Valley at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“The money belongs in the hands of the people who earned it and who own the property,” Pace said.
Pace’s suggestion came during interim finance director Chelsie Taylor’s presentation of the 2016 budget and amendments. Spokane Valley is once again not increasing the property tax by the 1 percent allowed by the state, making 2016 the seventh budget year without a tax increase.
Council member Bill Gothmann told Pace it is too late in the budget process to make such a big adjustment.
“It would mean the city manager has to go back and determine what a reduction of funds will mean to each department,” Gothmann said. “I’d rather not bypass the regular process.”
The regular process of budget meetings and workshops began months ago.
Pace said making specific cuts is up to staff, but where to cut became a moot point when only Arne Woodard supported Pace’s failed amendment.
The 2016 budget shows recurring expenditures are up by 2.79 percent instead of meeting the 1 percent cap that is the council’s goal.
That gave council member Arne Woodard, who’s running for re-election, an opening to share the reduced government platform he’s running on.
“This is moving up significantly from the 1 percent we set as a goal,” Woodard said. “We have to be more diligent.”
Woodard specifically opposed the city’s purchase of a $225,000 truck for snow removal.
“We are a contract city and we should remain a contract city,” Woodard said.
Grafos said it’s impossible to find and hire snow removal staff and machinery in the middle of winter.
“It’s a safety issue,” Grafos said.
Woodard said the 2.79 percent increase in expenses is “government growing out of control.”
City Manager Mike Jackson reminded the council that reducing the increase in recurring expenses to 1 percent would require reworking the entire budget and, if that was the council’s desire, then he’d like to see the council suggest specific cuts.
Grafos reminded the council that if the cost of public safety and paying wages determined by the city’s contract with unions were taken out of the budget increase, then it only went up by around $2,600.
“If you want to cut back on public safety, we need to talk about that,” Grafos said.
Again, only Woodard and Pace voted for amending the budget, so the amendment failed.
There was only one public comment made by Sean Green, who said he’d like to be considered for a bid on the snow removal contract in case the city doesn’t purchase a truck.
The council then voted to move the budget forward to a second reading.
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