Spokane County residents have an additional 60 days to pay their property taxes after the treasurer’s office announced Thursday its second extension of the year.
Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner extended the county’s second semiannual property tax deadline from Oct. 31 to Dec. 31 and eliminated late fees until the end of the year, saying families facing additional hardship from unemployment and not being able to send children to school should have more time to pay.
Baumgartner said he hoped the tax extension would help families who were out of work and trying to home school because of COVID-19 restrictions.
During a news conference and follow-up interview Thursday, Baumgartner argued school districts should offer parents a stipend to make up for the loss of in-person instruction. Otherwise, he argued, voters will lose trust in them.
He suggested that schools cut teacher pay back to the levels of 2018, before Spokane Public Schools awarded an average 13.3% raise raises to teachers.
“I’m not suggesting they don’t get paid, but a reduction so parents can have support at home,” he said.
Baumgartner also suggested school districts could refinance bonds and take other actions to support parents, who he said weren’t getting what they paid for.
Spokane Public Schools associate superintendent Mark Anderson said the district will analyze what impact the delay might cause, as it has debt payments due on Dec. 1.
“We certainly understand and appreciate the financial stress that many people are under,” Anderson said. “And we are certainly trying to offer the best program possible, though we understand that it’s not as good as in-person.”
Baumgartner said the office had received dozens of calls over the past few months from people asking for tax relief or sharing stories of financial hardship. He said the treasurer’s office can only waive late penalties and delay the deadline. He said he does not have the authority to reduce the amount people owe.
“We can’t eliminate that tax burden, but we are pleased we can offer this significant financial assistance by eliminating the fees on the upcoming tax bill,” he said.
Those who owe back taxes from previous years or who pay their taxes through their mortgage are not included in the extension.
The average taxpayer saw a 13.6% increase in their bill this year because of changes in public education funding.
Roughly 53% of county taxpayers have already paid , contributing about $359 million in revenue. Some $313 million remains to be collected .
Baumgartner said local governments and school districts that are dependent on property taxes should still be able to pay off debts they owe, based on an analysis his office did of their finances.
He said if they cannot make their payments by their deadline, local governments and school districts can borrow funds from Spokane County’s $1.3 billion investment fund. He said a few entities that depend on the county for banking have already received loans to make it through the pandemic.
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