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

Airway Heights could join Spokane County Library District to free up tax revenue

Julianne Turner, a public services specialist at the North Spokane Library, shelves books April 7, 2021.   (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Airway Heights may change how it funds its library to free up more property tax dollars for fire and emergency medical services.

During a Spokane County Commission meeting Monday, Airway Heights staff said the city wants to join the Spokane County Library District.

Joining the district wouldn’t increase or decrease funding for the Airway Heights Library, but it would raise property taxes and indirectly provide the city an additional $370,000 per year in revenue. In all likelihood, Airway Heights residents will vote on the proposal during the August election.

Unofficially, the Airway Heights Library is already part of the Spokane County Library District, which provides library services to all county residents outside of Spokane and Liberty Lake.

The library district doesn’t directly tax Airway Heights residents, however. Instead, the city acts as a middleman, sending the district about $370,000 of its own property tax revenue every year. For context, Airway Heights has a $14.6 million annual budget.

The Airway Heights City Council wants the Spokane County Library District to take over the taxation job. If that happens, the city could keep collecting the same amount of property tax revenue while eliminating the cost of the library.

In effect, joining the library district would give the Airway Heights city budget a $370,000 annual boost.

City Manager Albert Tripp said Airway Heights would invest that money in fire and emergency medical services. He noted that in the last decade, the city’s population has grown 35% and emergency medical calls have risen 172%.

“We’re looking for funding now to both maintain library services as well as to meet the growing needs on the public safety side as well,” Tripp told the county commission. “This will provide an opportunity to do both.”

The City Council and library district Board of Trustees unanimously support the proposal, but the final decision will fall to Airway Heights voters.

If voters decide to join the county library district, an Airway Heights property owner with a $300,000 home would pay the district about $100 a year. In other words, the change would amount to a roughly $100 tax increase.

The Spokane County Commission next week will vote on whether to place the library district question on the Aug. 1 ballot. Airway Heights would formally join the district on Jan. 1, 2025, if the measure passes.