City of Spokane prepares for potential lawsuit with Spokane Coun - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

City of Spokane prepares for potential lawsuit with Spokane County

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

UPDATE: As of February 19th, the City of Spokane and Spokane County have still not come to an agreement over a property tax exemption.

The city is trying to inform more than 4,000 people about the exemption, but the county and state argue the city has over stepped its authority.

In a letter from the Washington Department of Revenue to the county about why they believe the city exceeded its authority, officials say, "Washington's constitution vests in the legislature the exclusive authority to exempt property and also allows the legislature to provide property tax relief for retired persons. No similar authority for a city to exempt individuals from property tax is provided in the constitution."

The city passed an ordinance last week that would allow low income seniors and disabled people who are 61-years-old and up to apply for an exemption on the current street levy.

Because of that, the city wants the county to send out an amended tax statement to notify the 4,000 people the exemption would effect.

These people would save about $25 dollars on average every year for 20 years.

County officials say the city didn't have the power to pass an ordinance allowing that.

"If things had been done in the beginning to make sure things were worded right, we would have been fine. Now that it is, I think we just need to move forward, and there is going to be a tax increase for those citizens, but you can't seperate those citizens from the rest of the citizens in the county," said Spokane County Assessor Vicki Horton.

"We promised our citizens that we would not increase tax rates, so for everyone else who was paying, we're holding true our word. But for those 4,000 people they're going to see is a difference on their tax bill based on now being charged that street levy," said Utilities Communications Manager Marlene Feist.

The issue might end in a lawsuit.

For more information on who the exemption applies to click here: http://www.spokanecounty.org/Assessor/content.aspx?c=1385



PREVIOUS: There is a political showdown heating up between the City of Spokane and Spokane County. It all stems from confusion over a property tax exemption.

In the fall of 2014 the city of Spokane asked voters to support a Street Levy, that low-income seniors and people living on disability could apply to be exempt from paying property tax on.

To ensure that exemption, on February 9th the Spokane City Council passed an ordinance allowing it. The exemption form would normally go out with the 2015 property tax assessment statements, but the county had already mailed those forms out. So the city requested that the county send out an amended tax notice, which included the exemption information, and offered to share the cost of the amended notification. Utilities Communications Manager for the City Marlene Feist says the goal is to notify the 4000 people the amendment would affect.

But Spokane County spokesperson Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter says Spokane County Assessor Vicki Horton sent the city's ordinance details to the State Department of Revenue, which issued an opinion that the city had exceeded its authority in expanding the parameters of the state exemption program.

Based on that opinion, the county has declined to send out an amended tax notification.

The city of Spokane has said if that's the case, the city will take the county to court, and filed legal paperwork on Tuesday.

This is a developing story, look for more updates as they happen.

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