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Spokane City Council endorses school levy in resolution

By a 4-3 vote, the council formally gave their support to the tax that will pay for services at Spokane Public Schools.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane City Council formally gave its support to the upcoming Spokane Public Schools levy via a resolution that passed 4-3 on Monday night.

The levy is a replacement levy, so it is not a new tax. It is a tax increase compared to the property tax rates district homeowners currently pay, though SPS administrators point out it's a lower rate than what voters have historically approved.

Unusual for Spokane, where a levy has not failed since the 1970s, there is an organized opposition campaign to the levy this year. 

Advocates for re-opening schools say the district has been dragging its feet when it comes to resuming in-person learning, and shouldn't expect the same families its frustrating to dole out more money. They also argue the city council should not get involved.

"My thought is that the city council needs to stay out of it," said Joanna Hyatt, an organizer within the re-open movement. "The voters will make this decision absolutely. But for the city council to weigh in in this way is to intentionally try to use their influence to sway voters in a particular direction, without really giving equal time to both sides of the conversation."

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs said the resolution is a valuable way to inform citizens, and that as elected leaders, people want to know city council members' view on important local issues.

"We basically consider every tax measure that's on the ballot, and we weigh in with a resolution every time there's one on there. So we always do this," said Beggs. "And I can just speak for myself, I support this. This tax rate that we're going to be at is going to be at one of the lowest rates that we've been at historically. And the state is cutting back money that they're currently giving to the district. And we're going to lose jobs if we don't do this, and we're going to have to cut services to kids."

The council's lone conservative member, Michael Cathcart, voted against the resolution, citing concerns about the school district's financial responsibility. Two other council members, Lori Kinnear and Candice Mumm, voted no not because of opposition to the levy, but because they felt council did not need to get itself involved in district affairs.

The levy itself will be on the ballot for the February 9 special election. It needs a simple majority to pass.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that council member Karen Stratton was absent for the vote. Stratton was absent during initial roll call at the start of the meeting, however was present during the legislative portion of the meeting, and voted in favor of the resolution.