Spokane City Councilman Richard Rush is introducing a plan that, on the surface, appears to be a net positive for citizens. He will ask the city council tonight to put a proposition on the February ballot that would repeal the city’s utility tax.
The utility tax is one of the main revenue sources for Spokane. It is collected on sewer, water and garbage fees. Getting rid of it altogether would force the city to reduce future spending by some $30-35 million.
After much public outcry and extensive media coverage of research published by Washington Policy Center, city leaders in Spokane have announced they are going to review and possibly replace the city’s ill-conceived five tier water rate structure.
Earlier this year, the City of Spokane implemented a punishing five-tier price structure for water use for city homeowners. The message from government officials was clear – save water or we’ll charge you more.
Today, citizens are saving even more water than they did before, and the new message from councilmembers is contradictory – we’re going to charge you more, because you’re conserving. It’s not hard to figure out why Spokane homeowners are frustrated.
(UPDATE: The SRCAA voted unanimously Thursday to delay implementation of this rule for at least six months. Board members echoed WPC suggestions about looking at voluntary measures and understanding who would be impacted before any new regulation is adopted.)
The City of Spokane and Spokane Transit Authority have unanimously decided to move forward with plans for an electric trolleybus in Downtown Spokane. The decision, after more than a year of deliberation and input from a community Sounding Board, eliminated both a most expensive and least expensive option.
Government officials in the City of Spokane are asking for more taxes and broken promises in order to balance the city’s budget.
Mayor Mary Verner announced her budget this week. It would raise taxes and fees by $1.4 million on the citizens of Spokane. More than $400,000 of new revenue would come from red light camera fines, showing the cameras are not for public safety but are a mechanism to collect more money from citizens. Mayor Verner proposes diverting those dollars into the general fund.
Spokane Public School officials sent out 238 layoff notices to school district employees this week. District officials feel they don’t have enough state funding, despite the fact their budget is higher than it has ever been before, and they are educating 3,000 fewer students than they did just 10 years ago.
Among those who have been told they might be terminated:
Late last month, WPC submitted a column to the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane regarding Spokane's Central City Alternatives Analysis project. Spokane Transit Authority CEO Susan Meyer has graciously clarified some of the points made in that column. Her thoughts are bolded below.
An assistant superintendent for Spokane Public Schools made a surprising comment last night when addressing the district’s budget woes. Staci Vesneske, in an interview with KXLY4 News, said “what has happened is, as costs for education have risen, the state funding has not.”
Anyone looking for an example of the transparency games being played in Olympia needs look no further than what is happening today. A Senate Ways and Means hearing is scheduled for 1:30pm today, and at 12:09pm Senate Bill 5754 was added to the agenda. SB 5754 concerns publication of tax data to ensure the transparency of Washington's tax preferences.
The less than 90 minutes notice gives people from Eastern Washington no opportunity to go to Olympia to testify on the bill. In fact, it barely gives them time to phone or email their Senator with questions.
Just when we thought Washington’s east against west mindset was starting to settle down, it has boiled back up. Several Western Washington legislators have introduced bills that would allow the legislature to dissolve counties that don’t generate enough state tax revenue--and most of the targets are in Eastern Washington.