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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Voters renew Spokane County public safety sales tax

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 6, 2019, 11:25 p.m.

The Spokane County Jail, shown in 2018, will soon have both a body scanner and a mail scanner to keep contraband and drugs out of the facility. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane County Jail, shown in 2018, will soon have both a body scanner and a mail scanner to keep contraband and drugs out of the facility. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane voters overwhelmingly chose Tuesday to renew a countywide public safety sales tax.

More than 67% of votes in Tuesday night’s primary election were in support of Spokane County Measure No. 1, which will renew the county’s criminal justice and public safety sales tax.

The extension will be in effect from April 2020 to December 2029.

Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney said Spokane County keeps 60% of the tax and the rest goes to the cities across the county. She said the tax is an essential part of the $170 million public safety budget, which is only a fraction of the county’s entire budget of $790 million.

“To take $6 million away may not seem like a lot, but it is a lot,” Kuney said. “That would be some significant cuts to public safety.”

The tax is mostly used to pay for staffing in the sheriff’s office and courts.

Voters twice before have approved the sales tax, which amounts to one-tenth of 1% of purchases. The first time it came before Spokane County voters, in 2004, almost 52% voted in favor. When the sales tax was renewed in 2009, nearly 62% voted yes. When the sales tax was first adopted, it generated about $2 million in revenue; it now generates about $6 million.

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