SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash.-- Ten years ago Spokane Valley incorporated and became its own city. It was a hotly-contested issue that failed three times before voters finally approved it.
Since it became its own city in March 2003, Spokane Valley has transformed from vast farmland to a bustling suburb.
One of the key things supporters of incorporating the city had to get across to voters was to lower taxes. “I wouldn't say it automatically lowered taxes. But I would say the city has maintained lower taxes,” said Spokane Valley City Manager Mike Jackson
Since 2004, Spokane Valley has increased property taxes at least five times. Then in 2010, the increase was reversed and $100,000 was given back to the city’s general fund.
Authorities said the state of Washington allows for a 1% annual increase to keep up with inflation, but the city has not taken that in five years, including the upcoming 2014 budget. By not taking the annual increase, experts said Spokane Valley homeowners have saved nearly $1,000,000 in unpaid taxes.
Since the beginning, city administrators have also promised to keep operating costs and staffing levels at a minimum. KREM 2 found the number of city positions has nearly doubled over the last ten years, going from 45 in the first year, to 87 planned positions next year. However, the staff is still one of the smallest in the state for a city of that size.
The library and fire districts are independently funded and self-sufficient. The city contracts out most of its services like law enforcement and street repairs.
Unlike many cities, Spokane Valley relies less on property taxes for revenue, but instead, hopes development and sales tax will drive future growth.
But some people worry development has changed the Spokane Valley landscape. “When you develop everything, put houses next to houses, you lose the specialness that is the Valley,” said incorporation opponent Sally Jackson. “Of course you want that, but you don't want it to be number one. You still need quality of life to be number one.”
Experts said the city hopes to save up enough money to eventually build a city hall. In the meantime, city leaders will continue to focus on attracting business and pave the way for the next ten years.