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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Commissioners to host public meetings on Spokane County budget

Spokane County Commissioners Josh Kerns and Al French hold a meeting Sept. 12, 2017, in the county’s Public Works Building. On Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, they voted to stop negotiating union contracts behind closed doors, drawing praise from open-government advocates and rebukes from union leaders. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane County Commissioners will host a series of community meetings to inform the public and gather input as they craft the county’s budget for 2019.

The first meeting, scheduled for Sept. 18, will focus on property value assessments and taxes, which are expected to rise significantly this year because of a state levy for schools.

The second meeting, on Oct. 9, will cover parks, roads and utilities. The third and final meeting, on Oct. 16, will cover public safety and the local justice system.

Each meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room on the bottom floor of the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway Ave.

After a review of the 2018 budget and an outlook for 2019, community members will have an opportunity to provide input, according to a news release. Each meeting will be recorded and shared on the county’s website and YouTube channel.

The meetings are intended as a show of transparency following last year’s budgeting process, in which the county cut spending from the general fund to avert a $9.4 million shortfall. At the time, commissioners said the county had been hurting from declines in sales tax revenue and “unfunded mandates” from the Legislature and the state Supreme Court.

In the recent news release, however, Commissioner Al French said the situation has changed: “This year, we are on a better financial footing thanks to the adjustments that we made over the last year and a growing economy.”

During an interview last week, Commissioner Josh Kerns said he hopes to avoid raising the county’s property tax rate – a proposal he and French introduced to voters and then abandoned last year.

“My goal is for us to avoid that,” Kerns said, adding that strong sales tax revenue has reduced the county’s projected budget shortfall. “Our shortfall for next year continues to go down, like, every single month. It is incredible what our sales tax is doing right now.”