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Spokane Voters To Decide Fire/Police Tax Ballot Measure

Meg Maclean

Voters in the city of Spokane will be asked next year to approve a property tax increase to pay for more police officers, firefighters and crime prevention programs.

The city council voted Monday night to put the measure to a special election on February 13. It would raise property taxes, beginning in 2020, by 30 cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. That’s $60 for the owner of a $200,000 home. The measure is expected to raise about $5.8 million a year.

Proponents say, without it, the city may have to lay off 48 firefighters whose salaries are paid by a federal grant awarded in 2016. Many of those firefighters have only been on the job a year or so.

David Kovac has been a Spokane firefighter for 21 years. He says his department’s staffing levels are roughly half of what they were 40 years ago, when crews responded to a small fraction of the calls they handle now.

"I thank you today for having the political courage to put forward a funding measure that will increase the public safety for the city of Spokane for many years into the future," Kovac said. "It is the first time, in my memory, that we have ever asked the citizens of Spokane if they want better service, if they would like faster response times.”

Councilman Mike Fagan was the lone vote against. He urged the council to wait until elected leaders in the county decide whether and how to proceed with a new jail.