November 22, 2012 | Vol. 116 -- No. 31

Airway Heights approves 1 percent property tax increase

The Airway Heights City Council approved a 1 percent increase in property tax rates for 2013 at its Monday, Nov. 19 meeting.

The increase, according to city treasurer Richard Cook, amounts to 2 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The amount paid in taxes would have increased regardless, due to the city’s assessed valuation dropping for the first time in several years. Assessed valuations across the region were also lower than previous years.

Kevin Richey was the dissenting vote in the 4 to 1 decision.

Lee Taylor from Project Access spoke regarding a modified budget request on behalf of the City Council. Project Access provides full medical care for low-income residents. Taylor said even with health care reform coming in the next year, around 230,000 people in Spokane County would be without coverage. About 700 residents are currently served. Overall, the organization saves over $1 million in the Spokane community.

“We save that in actual hospital and medical organization cost,” Taylor said.

Airway Heights contributed $5,000 last year, which covered $198,000 in medical services provided to its residents. The city of Spokane chose to not provide funds to the organization, and has city residents receiving over $3 million in provided medical services.

“Our value of services last year was over $7 million,” Taylor said.

Based on its budget situation, Airway Heights looked into not providing funding for 2013, but will look at its budget later next year once sales tax revenues arrive. The city is facing a tight budget heading in to next year, and has another public hearing to discuss it before a final vote. Other contracts are on the table as well, including membership in Greater Spokane Incorporated.

Project Access’ budget last year was 6 percent smaller from the previous year, and is taking another 20 percent reduction in 2013. The cuts are being achieved largely through reduction in staff hours and shifting duties around.

Clients using Project Access typically reduce the no-show rate for appointments down from 30 to 4 percent. In addition, health care providers save in the long run as the organization helps to complete each client’s paperwork.

Mayor Patrick Rushing said the Joint Land Use Study memorandum of understanding group met for its final time, in an effort to create a land-use document for the city. The City Council will take a look at the document in its next meeting. Airway Heights has worked to remain protective of Fairchild Air Force Base throughout the discussions, which began earlier this year.

“The whole idea is to get more multi-family in there in order to enhance the urban density and create more public stock for various citizens in Airway Heights,” city attorney Stanley Schwartz said.

The City Council also approved the bid award for a 2013 Polaris Ranger, for use primarily at the wastewater treatment plant. It would also be used throughout the city to help move snow off sidewalks and other small areas. Coming in at a bid of $12,452.13, the vehicle doesn’t draw funds from the city’s current expense budget, and is instead funded through other accounts related to the treatment plant.

Also approved was a $70,000 contract for services with Barr-Tech in 2013 for transportation and beneficial use of biosolids. Barr-Tech takes the solids produced at the wastewater treatment plant at a rate of $49.50 per wet ton and delivers it to its location near Sprague, Wash.

Another contract with the Department of Corrections work crew was approved at the meeting. The $11,000 contract costs $1 per hour, with a 12 percent administrative fee and lasts through Sept. 30, 2013.

A second public hearing of the 2013 budget will take place at the next City Council meeting, Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers.

James Eik can be reached at james@cheneyfreepress.com.

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