Spokane will collect slightly higher property taxes next year after the City Council voted 6-1 Monday to override a mayoral veto.
The City Council had originally voted 5-2 on Nov. 14 to collect 1% more local property taxes in 2023 than the year prior. That hike, bundled with the rest of next year’s property tax levy, amounts to nearly $650,000 for the city’s 2023 budget at a cost of a few dollars for most property owners.
Then on Nov. 18, Mayor Nadine Woodward issued a veto in opposition to the 1% tax hike. However, due to a possible clerical error with the way the mayor transmitted that veto, there were questions raised about whether she had in fact vetoed the entire levy, possibly putting at risk funding for parks, streets, fire and police.
In an email to council, City Attorney Michael Piccolo said that the mayor’s veto “could” be read to only relate to the 1% property tax increase. However, a number of council members were not satisfied with the certainty of that language, particularly without knowing how the county assessor’s office would interpret the legal effect of the veto.
“I find it deeply concerning that we passed this ordinance two weeks ago and we don’t know what exactly this veto does,” Councilman Zack Zappone said. “We don’t know what the county would do with the veto if we don’t override this.”
Councilman Jonathan Bingle, who had voted against the 1% tax hike two weeks ago, voted Monday to override the mayor’s vote due to similar concerns.
“It has been frustrating. I’ve asked a number of questions along these lines – does it mean we’re not funding any of these levies?” Bingle said.
“Because I haven’t been able to get concrete answers about what the veto does, I can’t vote in good conscience to not overturn this,” he added. “This is probably my least favorite vote of all time.”
Councilman Michael Cathcart, the sole vote Monday to uphold the veto, disagreed with whether the veto was legally ambiguous. He and Bingle have repeatedly criticized the decision to increase property taxes amid broad economic uncertainty and cost of living increases.
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