Bill To Restructure Spokane Emergency Communication Funding Passes State House

Mar 1, 2021

A bill addressing emergency communications, which has divided local leaders, has advanced in the state legislature.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

A bill that would restructure how emergency communication is funded in Spokane County has passed the state House.

The bill is the latest entry into a conflict between Spokane County and the City of Spokane over how the region responds to 911 calls. It was sponsored by Spokane Democrat Marcus Riccelli.

Spokane County’s emergency dispatch services are funded through a 2017 sales tax which created a new organization called Spokane Regional Emergency Communications. That group was designed to consolidate 911 call takers under one agency.

The law that allowed the county to collect the tax required counties with more than 500,000 to sign interlocal agreements with cities more than 50,000 on how they spend the money. Spokane County had a population of less than 500,000 in 2017, but has now surpassed that number.

The law changes the timing of when that 500,000 is counted and would require the county to make an agreement with the city of Spokane over how emergency communications is funded.

Spokane City Council leaders have argued that the county has offered no proof that they will make emergency communications more efficient or safer if they take over.

If they can’t reach an agreement, the city of Spokane could eventually have a court divide up the tax and may be able to keep public safety taxes generated in their boundaries.

Under current law the county controls those funds.

Now that the bill has passed the House, it will head to the Senate for consideration.