(The Center Square) – The Spokane City Council is raising property taxes again next year despite opposition to that plan by Mayor Nadine Woodward and two of its members.
The council in a 5-2 vote on Monday approved a 1% increase from the year prior, which will add nearly $650,000 to the city’s 2023 budget.
Woodward had proposed a $1.2 billion budget for next year that did not include the tax increase. She said that was done to give families a break during a time when they are paying record gas prices and high inflation costs.
She said the city could forego the increase because it had realized a 6% increase in sales tax review over 2021. She said higher interest income was also anticipated as a result of rising interest rates.
Councilors Michael Cathcart and Jonathan Bingle voted no on the increase. They agreed with Woodward that times are too tough right now to put more of a burden on taxpayers.
“I think we are elected to manage the budget and do it in a smart and thoughtful way,” said Cathcart in an opposition statement issued a couple of weeks ago to raise public awareness about the issue. “The council’s proposal to increase taxes across Spokane is misguided during this time of inflation and looming recession.”
His statement followed news from Spokane County Assessor Tom Konis that property owners could pay 9% more in taxes next year due to valuations that have grown an unprecedented 30%.
However, the council majority determined that the 1% increase would not cost property owners much more. Spokane Chief Financial Officer Tonya Wallace estimates the added charge will amount to about $9 more per year for owners of a $400,000 house.
Bingle told The Center Square following the Nov. 14 vote that his opposition vote was a matter of principle.
“People are really tightening their belts right now and it is important that we show them that we are doing that as well,” he said. “There is never a good time to raise taxes but this is an especially bad time.”
Even though $9 is a nominal amount of money, Bingle said every penny counts when individuals and families are on the margins.
“We don’t know the situation that people are in – that $9 could really matter,” he said.
Although Washington law allows local governments to increase property taxes by 1% a year, not all cities exercise that right. Spokane Valley, the immediate neighbor of Spokane, has declined to raise property taxes for 14 straight years in order to spur economic development.