Medical Lake City Council has questions on Prop. 1
Skepticism was out and about at the Medical Lake City Council meeting during a presentation on Spokane County’s Proposition 1, a levy to protect Fairchild Air Force Base.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French was at the meeting, seeking support for the ballot measure, which appears on the Tuesday, Nov. 5 ballot across the county. The item would buy out mobile home parks in Airway Heights encroaching on Fairchild’s runway and turn it into developable industrial land.
The City Council specifically took issue with the fact that cities contributing to purchase the mobile home properties wouldn’t see a return on their investment. Although residents would see the levy rate reduced in some fashion, cities wouldn’t reap any of the sales tax revenue generated by an industrial operation in Airway Heights.
“How does the actual sales tax come back to us,” Councilwoman Brenda Redell asked.
“There won’t be any,” French replied.
Others thought if the current setup continues, Airway Heights should pay a higher percentage.
“Airway Heights should be paying a bigger percentage than the rest of the county,” Mayor John Higgins said. “I can see why they’d be all for it.”
Proposition 1, if approved, would institute a property tax levy rate of up to $1.40 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Currently, the levy impact works out to $6.31 per $100,000 for a nine-year time frame. At the meeting, French reiterated that the levy amount was intentionally set higher than the county expects the project to cost in order to factor in collateral.
Should the project come in lower, it will result in a reduced levy term or reduced rates.
Given the relatively modest amount asked, the board of Spokane County Commissioners sees the investment as protecting the county against the potential closure of Fairchild due to encroachment in a future round of Base Realignment and Closure in the Air Force.
“We view that as insurance to the alternatives if it doesn’t pass,” French said.
Fairchild, French said, represents a $1.3 billion annual impact to the Spokane region and has 6,000 jobs at stake on base, with an additional 6,000 present in the community. All told, he said a population of around 26,000 citizens are directly related to Fairchild’s presence in Spokane.
Suggestions to improve the proposition included having the county stay on as landowner, collecting at least some form of income to distribute to cities for their support. French said he would take the idea to the board, while also hearing other jurisdictions’ input in the two weeks leading up to the election.
The City Council won’t meet again until election day, and decided to not pursue a resolution on the issue.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.