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Spokane City Council votes to remove safety levy from August ballot

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(The Center Square) – The Spokane City Council voted unanimously to remove Mayor Lisa Brown’s Community Safety Levy from the August ballot during a special meeting on Thursday.

The decision follows Brown’s announcement on Wednesday that she would extend the timeline for implementing the controversial levy. If passed, it would have cost taxpayers $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Last week, the council voted 5-2 to put the levy on the August ballot. Now, following Thursday’s special meeting, the council will request the Spokane County Auditor to remove it.

“The topic of a new property tax has been unsettled due to lack of information that, as a Council, we wanted,” said Council President Betsy Wilkerson in a statement following the meeting. “Since the April vote, we’ve been listening to the voices of the community and additional conversation with my fellow council members, moving to remove this measure from the August ballot is a smart decision. We simply need more input and more information.”

Brown previously stated that around 200 employees could lose their jobs or face layoffs if the city fails to pass the measure. Now, with a vote on the levy pushed until at least November, the future of those careers could be in question.

Councilmember Michael Cathcart, an outspoken opponent of the mayor’s levy, said he’s pleased the mayor listened to her constituents and chose to push a vote until later; however, he expressed disappointment in the fact that the city council has postponed a parks levy multiple times now, most recently being last week to garner more support for Brown’s levy.

“Of course, I’m supporting this,” Cathcart said. “It should not have been on the ballot in the first place.”

Councilmember Jonathan Bingle suggested Brown’s administration change its approach moving forward, hinting that maybe another levy is not what the city needs. Bingle said he plans to propose how to address the city’s growing general fund deficit in the near future.

“It wasn’t ready for prime time, we tried to say that,” he said. “We don’t just have a problem in the general fund; we have a problem throughout the city.”

Councilmember Paul Dillon said Spokane’s growing population has growing needs.

“You’re never going to do more with less,” Dillon said, “you do less with less.”

He called the decision a pyrrhic victory. Dillon said matters will only worsen for neighborhoods struggling with available resources if the city fails to bring in more revenue.