In the grand scheme of the Spokane County budget for 2013, $8,000 isn’t exactly a lot of money.
Yet county commissioners were sure to let representatives of the Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District know Tuesday that an extra $8,000 in order to help pay for an imbalance in services vs. tax contributions was a one-time deal only.
“We’ll assess future requests as they come,” said county Commissioner Mark Richard.
Bob Brueggeman, Spokane County engineer, said that the district’s budget would be going up 4 percent next year in order to meet the current level of service, without making any additional improvements for flood control or water-quality equipment. Such a scenario has been the norm for the past couple of years, and the district’s reserve funds have suffered for it.
However, Brueggeman said there is an about $8,000 difference between property owners who receive benefits from the districts and those who are actually paying in. He said the district advisory board was requesting the county make up that difference in 2013.
“There may be opportunities to correct future errors,” he said.
Any corrections, however, would likely have to come at the state level. For years, county officials have heard complaints from those living in the Newman Lake areas that some property owners are unfairly burdened while others pay no taxes at all. Still, all living on or near the lake benefit from its cleanliness and the ongoing efforts of the district. Basically, it comes down on where you live – typically those who live in the district borders are assessed different tax rates depending on their proximity and impact on the lake.
Newman Lake has had to deal with Eurasian milfoil and flood problems in the past. The former continues to be an ongoing concern, while the latter issue is more or less under control.
Forming a new district or reconfiguring the funding formula has their pros and cons. Any changes would have to be approved by the majority of those affected, and it’s pretty tough to get folks to pay taxes that they’re not paying now.
“More than half paying nothing would have to agree to pay something,” said board Chairman Todd Mielke. “They’ll mostly say no.”
New rules drafted by the Legislature could ease those efforts, and the commissioners called on the district and Newman Lake property owners to assist them in lobbying for those changes during the next legislative session.
“My suggestion is that we pay the difference now and then go to the Legislature,” Mielke said. “I think that’s where the fix is.”