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Airway Heights local sales tax measure on the ballot

Hayford Road improvement
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
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This pedestrian project on busy Hayford Road in Airway Heights was funded in part by money from the city's transportation benefit district.

The proposal would reauthorize, and add to, a tax that's been in effect for nine years.

The city of Airway Heights is asking voters to reauthorize a local sales tax they say has made walking and driving around town safer.

“Over the past nine years we’ve been able to do congestion relief or traffic safety projects, pedestrian-related projects in which the community has identified as important and without this particular funding source, we would not be able to get as many of those things accomplished," said Airway Heights City Manager Albert Tripp.

With the current tax, people who buy items subject to sales tax pay two pennies for every 10 dollars of value. That tax will expire at the end of next year.

Tripp says the city collected about $635,000 last year. That makes it a consistent funding source, but he says the tax has other value.

“This particular mechanism, the TBD, provides important match money to be able to compete for those state and federal grants," he said. "For the next five years there’s a projection to be a great deal more federal funding, state funding available than there might be historically otherwise.”

Tripp says the funding pays for items such as sidewalks in residential areas and around civic buildings, such as schools. It also helped to pay for a pedestrian safety crossing on busy Hayford Road, which fronts the Northern Quest Casino and Hotel.

“Hayford Road’s a pretty wide section of roadway to make it across and it has a large amount of daily trips on that particular roadway and so we added a flashing beacon signage that allows for pedestrians to cross a bit more safer," Tripp said.

Given the rapid growth Airway Heights is experiencing, Tripp says the ballot proposal seeks to increase the local sales tax by a tenth-of-a-cent, or three cents-per-10-dollar purchase. Tripp says the tax is paid by everyone who spends money in Airway Heights, not just the people who live there.

“It was important to the community and I think voters said, when they voted for this, that it’s important to develop an equitable system that would allow, as those road impacts are occurring, also an equitable way of dispersing how the cost was being covered there as well," he said.

One of the next projects on the drawing board is a street that allows travelers to move between Airway Heights and Spokane and bypass Highway 2.

The city will hold two public forums about the transportation benefit renewal ballot measure, one next Monday and one on November 7. Both will start at 5:30 at the city council building. You can also attend virtually.