Spokane Valley’s elected officials haven’t raised property taxes in 13 years and they aren’t breaking that streak anytime soon.
The City Council last week voted to amend a proposed property tax ordinance, removing the section that would have raised taxes by 1%.
Washington governments are required to pass ordinances every year when they levy property taxes. The City Council will vote Oct. 25 on the final version of the law.
City Council members said they didn’t want to raise taxes during an economic downturn.
“People are struggling,” City Councilwoman Brandi Peetz said. “Now is not the time.”
Spokane Valley is an outlier when it comes to property taxes.
State law allows governments to collect 1% more in property taxes every year. For instance, if Spokane Valley took $100 from property taxes in 2022 it could take $101 in 2023.
Many jurisdictions routinely take that additional 1%, but the Spokane Valley City Council has consistently opted against it. The habit has saved taxpayers several million dollars over the last 13 years.
Correspondingly, abstaining from 1% increases has cost the city.
For instance, Spokane Valley will collect more than $13 million through property taxes in 2023. The city could be collecting more than $14 million next year.
In the near-term, a 1% property increase wouldn’t be worth all that much. Spokane Valley Finance Director Chelsie Taylor estimates it would net the city an extra $131,700, a pittance when weighed against the city’s budget of more than $100 million.
Peetz said “$131,000 is not going to do anything for anybody.”
City Councilman Arne Woodard argued that Spokane Valley should raise taxes by 1%. He was the lone council member to vote against the amendment. Councilman Tim Hattenburg and Mayor Pam Haley were absent and did not cast votes.
Woodard acknowledged that $131,000 isn’t a large sum, but he said it would have value because it would improve the city’s bond rating and help the city secure grants from the state.
Spokane Valley needs to demonstrate to the Washington Legislature that it’s doing everything it can to fund its own projects, otherwise the state might be less willing to give the city money, Woodard said.
City Councilman Ben Wick, who made the motion to amend the ordinance, said he doesn’t believe the 1% is needed to balance the city’s budget and also emphasized that the city will collect an additional $400,000 in property taxes next year due to new construction.
“We need to continue to grow our economy and continue to grow new construction and new development,” he said.
Woodard pointed out that raising taxes by 1% would cost the average residence an additional $3.45 a year.
“That’s 30 cents a month,” he said.
Peetz said she believes even that figure could cause hardship.
“There are so many people that are on the verge of homelessness right now,” she said, “and $3 could mean that they would be out on the streets.”
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