Spokane Valley Fire is seeking an M&O levy request that would be good for three years, if approved.
However, it will be interesting to see if Fire Chief Mike Thompson will be able to present the details of the primary election ballot question in three minutes or less.
Turns out, that’s all the time Thompson will receive next month when he goes before the Spokane Valley City Council to give information on the levy renewal request, which would cover maintenance and operations – and approximately 53 percent of the department’s budget – for 2013-15.
While Thompson has given a full PowerPoint presentation for levy renewals in front of the council before – most recently in 2009 – this time around the chief was asked to simply present the information in written form to city staffers who would include it in a future council packet. He would be allowed, however, to speak during the “public comment” section of a formal council meeting – the next being July 10 – where the rules stipulate that speakers are only to be given three minutes to talk.
“I’m disappointed,” Thompson said. “We’re just trying to provide information. We’re not looking for a council endorsement.”
According to city spokeswoman Carolbelle Branch, City Council agendas are set by Mayor Tom Towey and City Manager Mike Jackson. “It is the preference and practice when dealing with ballot issues not to have individual reports at a council meeting,” Branch stated.
However, in recent times, members of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, the Spokane Public Facilities District and Spokane County Library District have gone before the council and given in-depth presentations on potential or existing tax requests.
And in 2007, the City Council unanimously endorsed a one-tenth of 1-percent sales tax in order to pay for the restoration of Crime Check, the updating of the 9-1-1 system and a new emergency radio communications system. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich gave a lengthy presentation to that iteration of the council – only Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels remains on the current governing body – to explain the issue, and voters eventually went on to approve the ballot request.
On Monday, Towey said he and the rest of the council would welcome written materials or Thompson’s comments – just not a formal presentation. If that were to happen, he said, the council would “be obligated to let anyone else talk about the reverse side” of the request.
“We have to be impartial,” Towey said.
While Thompson says he was told that the current council is not interested in hearing a formal report, he reiterated that the replacement levy “is not a tax increase.”
The fire department is asking for the same $1.59 per $1,000 in assessed property value that currently exists. In 2009, the levy passed by nearly 69 percent.
Thompson said he plans to give the full presentation, which lasts about 15 minutes, before the Millwood and Liberty Lake city council on July 10 and 17, respectively.
“We’re their fire department,” Thompson said of the other municipalities. “They should have the information. That’s what this is about. We don’t want any kind of endorsement.”