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Myth or Fact

City of Spokane Valley sets the record straight


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Since incorporating as a city in March 2003, Spokane Valley has gone from an abstract patch of Spokane County sprawl to the state's eighth largest city. From starting its own Parks and Recreation department to collaborating with Spokane County for services ranging from law enforcement to library facilities, the city continues to define itself as a municipal presence.

As a service to local residents, Spokane Valley officials have compiled a list of topics that clarify some of the questions surrounding the city - issues defined on Spokane Valley's Web site - www.spokanevalley.org - as "Myth or Fact?"

The Spokane Valley News Herald is reprinting the latest version of this feature in an effort to clear up certain undocumented information surrounding the city and set the record straight.

Are the ten most dangerous intersections in the entire county found in Spokane Valley? No. The Spokane County Sheriff's office released a report identifying the ten intersections with the most accidents in the area they patrol, which includes Spokane Valley, but does not include the cities of Spokane, Cheney, Medical Lake, Airway Heights, or Liberty Lake. A map provided by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, available at www.spokanevalley.org, puts the figures into perspective.

Did the City of Spokane Valley sell to a private firm for $28,200 park equipment valued at $150,000 donated by Spokane County? In fact, the 2003 park maintenance agreement between the City and the County listed nine vehicles and 20 pieces of equipment that the County would give to the City at the end of the agreement. The County estimated the current value at $156,800: $58,000 for the vehicles, and $98,800 for the equipment.

The vehicles were primarily trucks ranging in year from 1974 to 1988. The City checked the Kelly Blue Book internet value from December 2004. Instead of $58,000 as listed in the agreement, the total blue-book value was $8,250. For example, there were four 1988 Chevy S-10's which were valued at $6,000 each in the park maintenance agreement. However, the Kelly Blue Book valued these vehicles at approximately $830 each.

The 20 pieces of equipment ranged from weed eaters to commercial mowers, and the City asked for an independent appraisal from Western Equipment Distributors. The most valuable piece of equipment was a 1991 Toro gang mower. Also included were smaller riding mowers, turf sweepers and a variety of other equipment. Instead of $98,800 as indicated in the agreement, the equipment was appraised at $13,650.

The City issued a request for proposal (RFP), asking for bids to provide park maintenance services under contract beginning January 1, 2005. In that RFP, the City noted that these vehicles and equipment were available to the successful candidate for use in providing park maintenance if they so desired, and if the two parties could agree upon a price. The City negotiated a combined selling price of $28,250 with Senske Lawn and Tree Care, who provides park maintenance to the City. The offer was $6,350 more than the total estimated value and therefore was accepted.

Is the City of Spokane Valley in debt? In fact, we did have a start-up loan of $3.69 million dollars. We had three years to pay it off, but actually were able to fully repay it by the end of 2004, 1¾ years after incorporation. It's true that we have outstanding debt; however, they were decisions that reflect a wise use of our citizens' money. First, we issued $7 million in bonds to build CenterPlace, a facility that was approved by voters as one of three projects funded by the Public Facilities District. The money to repay the CenterPlace bonds comes from the PFD. Second, we issued $2.43 million in bonds to leverage state and federal grants for various street capital projects in the City. As a result of our successful grant applications, only about 18% of the cost of those street projects is paid for with City dollars.

Have our taxes gone up since the City incorporated? Our property tax rate has not gone up - in fact, it's gone down, because the unincorporated county road tax was higher than the City's share of the total property tax bill. The difference varies depending upon which Fire District you're annexed to. The dollar amount of your property tax bill may have gone up if the value of your property has increased. The County assessor's office is required under state law to periodically re-assess existing properties.

Council raised the stormwater fee, which appears on our property tax bills, to $21 per year for single-family households, which is the same as that charged by Spokane County. (Multi-family, commercial and industrial properties pay an equivalent rate, depending upon the size of their buildings and parking lots.) The City raised this fee so it could gear up its stormwater program to comply with state and federal stormwater requirements related to the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. Some of our upcoming activities include developing a schedule to clean and maintain our dry wells (the City owns about 5,600), swales (about 900), catch basins (about 1,900) and curb inlets (about 1,300). This will cut down on flooding across certain roadways in times of heavy rainfall or snow run-off.

Has the number of Police Officers in Spokane Valley been cut? No, Spokane Valley continues to contract with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement at the same service level, with the exception of crime check, which was a change that took place for the whole region. In 2003, the City's total law enforcement staffing was 101.5. It changed slightly in 2004, to 100.767, due to a shift in the way regional drug investigations are handled.

Have City taxes increased my cable bill? Since incorporation, Spokane Valley has been operating according to the County franchise with Comcast cable. We have not made any changes to the franchise fee, or to the way that fee is calculated. Cities and Counties have little control over the amount a cable company charges for its services. According to federal law, local governments are only allowed to comment on the cost of Basic Tier services. It is our understanding that Comcast's charge for Basic Tier services is below the threshold amount allowed by federal law.

Please note that the City of Spokane recently changed the methodology for calculating its franchise fee, which may result in an increase to customers. Comcast has been diligent about updating its database to ensure that change only affects those customers within the city limits of Spokane. However, if you live in Spokane Valley and are being incorrectly charged because of this change, please contact us or Comcast and they will correct it.

Have you heard something about Spokane Valley, and wondered if it's true? E-mail us at mythorfact@spokanevalley.org and we'll try to find an answer for you.


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