Mayor of Spokane suggests imposing a massive $40 million public safety levy each year

Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown is warning that the safety of the public in the city might be compromised if a substantial new tax levy is not authorized to address budget shortfalls.

According to Brown, if the Community Safety Levy is approved, it has the potential to generate approximately $40 million in annual revenue over the course of the next five years. This additional funding would be obtained through an additional tax placed on property owners, which would equate to $1 for every $1000 of assessed property value. As a result, the average property owner can expect to pay an extra $323 in taxes each year.

During a press conference on Friday, Brown expressed the importance of the levy in ensuring that the city can fund the things that people care about. “With this levy, we can provide people with the assurances that the things that they care about can actually be funded by the city,” Brown stated.

The Community Safety Levy has a clear objective: to enhance Spokane’s emergency preparedness, strengthen traffic safety measures, establish community resilience hubs, and assist in future infrastructure planning.

If the levy does not pass, Brown warned that the city’s current public safety capacity will be greatly affected, potentially leading to job losses for approximately 200 people.

Two-thirds of the funds obtained from the levy would be used to address the growing deficits in Spokane’s budget. Meanwhile, the remaining portion of the funds would be utilized to establish new programs and enhance existing ones. The City Council of Spokane has shared a comprehensive slideshow outlining the allocation of these funds over the next five years.

The city has allocated $100 million to law enforcement, $84 million to fire and support services, $5.6 million to court enhancements, $1.8 million to community resilience, and $1.2 million to a watchdog group overseeing the police department.

According to Brown, the previous administration presented budgets that failed to generate enough revenue to cover ongoing expenses. As a result, one-time funds and reserves were tapped into, creating a significant financial shortfall.

In order to bring the proposed tax to Spokane’s ballot in August, Brown will require the support of the city council. Nevertheless, there is one councilmember who is skeptical about Brown’s approach to budgetary matters.

Councilmember Michael Cathcart emphasized the impact of this tax hike on his own family.

According to Cathcart, the current proposals fail to showcase our commitment to financial responsibility and restraint.

The proposed levy is not limited to a fixed timeframe of five years. In fact, it is intended to be a permanent fixture, leading to continuous increases in expenditures without sufficient efforts to reduce costs in other areas. It is imperative that the city closely monitors the impact of this levy and sets a specific date for future re-evaluation.

Cathcart is urging for more detailed information to be included in the proposal regarding the specific costs of the levy and the guaranteed allocation of investments. He believes that constituents should be informed about the potential consequences if the proposal fails to pass, rather than receiving a general statement about its impact on public safety.

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