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Bait And Switch 

Local agencies jockey for animal control contracts; plus, a new way to fund Public Facilities District projects

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TAX FOR A TAX

Voters will probably need a second local tax increase in order to make the first one to work.

In April, voters OK’d an extension of a tax to, among other things, help expand the Spokane Convention Center. But Spokane city officials decided not to provide loan guarantees for the Public Facilities District's financing plans.

Instead, city officials are proposing to raise the motel-hotel tax, which would then provide loan guarantee funding.

“It is unfortunate, but I think [the PFD was] under the impression that the city was going to guarantee their bonds,” Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart says.

A hike in the motel-hotel tax, which would be raised to 12 percent from 10.7 percent, would be made through a city council vote, which as of press time had not been scheduled.

The PFD was told before the April election that the city “had reservations” about a loan guarantee, according to Gavin Cooley, the city’s chief financial officer. Cooley says a loan guarantee could damage the city’s credit rating and may not be allowable under the City Charter.

City Spokeswoman Marlene Feist says the city supports the idea of the PFD’s projects. She added that the motel-hotel will help the PFD by providing it marketing revenue down the road.

— JOE O’SULLIVAN

DOG FIGHT

The territorial conflict continues between the city of Spokane’s contracted Animal Control service, SpokAnimal and the county’s animal control service, SCRAPS.

During last year’s attempt to pass a bond to build an animal control facility, the city of Spokane agreed to join with the SCRAPS — abandoning SpokAnimal — for one regional animal control service, if the bond passed. But the bond failed, and the city of Spokane had no choice but to sign up with SpokAnimal for two more years.

But now that the county has found a way to build a facility without the bond, Spokane has an opportunity to partner with SCRAPS once more. “There are a lot of benefits,” SCRAPS director Nancy Hill says. Animals would be dropped off at one location for adoption and licensing rules would be unified.

Yet, in the meantime, SpokAnimal, for the first time, has expressed interest in providing animal services for Spokane Valley. Where Spokane Valley previously could only choose to partner with SCRAPS, now SCRAPS has a little competition.

— DANIEL WALTERS

THE END IS NIGH

You’re not going to be rolling your own cigarettes in Spokane anymore.

Between a clause in a massive congressional transportation bill and a controversial state tax, roll-your-own cigarette machines are going the way of the dinosaurs in much of the state.

Spokane Cigar and Tobacco, home of the only cigarette machine in Spokane, put its $33,000 machine away on Monday, employee Mohammed Khan says.

“[The machine] was just saving the customers money,” Khan says, particularly “people that were on fixed income, elderly people, because the prices in the state of Washington were so expensive.” The state Legislature passed a law earlier this year that would require taxes and new regulations on the machines. It went into effect this week, but opponents of the law have challenged its validity in a Franklin County court.

Meanwhile, a clause in a federal transportation bill would classify stores as “cigarette manufacturers,” thereby subjecting them to a number of federal taxes and regulations.

Rather than pay these taxes, Spokane Cigar opted to get out of the roll-your-own business.

“We’ve talked a lot of the clientele,” Khan says. “They’ve all told me they’re going to Idaho,” where there are fewer taxes on cigarettes.

— CHRIS STEIN

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