City of Airway Heights Places Propositions for Library & Fire/EMS Services on the August Ballot

Posted on June 6, 2023 at 6:00 am

The following information has been provided by the city of Airway Heights.

What’s the issue?

Airway Heights is facing challenges to provide services residents want and others that they need. Specifically, residents want and love their library. They also need an improved fire and EMS response. Emergency call volumes have increased 172% in 10 years.

Airway Heights does not collect enough revenue through its general property tax levy to support both the library, fire/EMS and all other city services. It is limited by law to a 1% revenue increase per year on its general property tax levy. (To put this in perspective, a 1% increase in revenue for 2023 was less than $15,000.)

Moreover, the City chose not to take its 1% for four separate years and allowed the EMS levy to expire in 2021 to help taxpayers during the pandemic. Funding is now needed to maintain library services and improve our fire and emergency medical response.

What’s the solution?

The Airway Heights City Council recently passed resolutions for two propositions to be on the August 1, Primary Election ballot to remedy this situation. The first asks voters to annex to the Spokane County Library District to continue funding the local library.

Annexing means that property owners would pay the Library District directly for service instead of the City paying through its general property tax levy. The City would retain that revenue to maintain funding for four full-time firefighters to respond to emergency calls. These positions are currently funded out of reserves, which is not sustainable.

The second ballot measure asks voters to approve a bond to renovate a property on South Garfield Avenue to include a fire station.

What’s the problem with the current fire station?

The current station on Lundstrom Street has been renovated 10 times. It is not adequate to serve our community or the health and safety of our firefighters most of whom are volunteers. For example:

  • Firefighters work without heat and air conditioning in most areas.
  • The station lacks decontamination areas for firefighters returning from calls.
  • The plumbing/drainage systems are so degraded that water backs up into the two showers available for firefighters to use when returning from calls.
  • The station bays are not large enough to house modern apparatus, like a ladder truck that is needed to respond to fires in multi-story buildings.

As a final note, the City recently had to call an exterminator to remove raccoons from the building when firefighters couldn’t catch them.

What is the City doing to reduce impacts to taxpayers?

The City has staggered these funding requests to reduce impacts to taxpayers. If approved by voters, the bond would take effect in 2024 and cost the owner of a $300,000 home $111 a year/$9.25 per month.

The library annexation would be on the same ballot, but not take effect until 2025. The library annexation would cost the same homeowner $102 per year/$8.50 per month in 2025.

The city will receive a $1.3 million state grant to help purchase the building for the proposed fire station if voters approve the bond. This will save taxpayers 15% in project costs.

The city will also sell an existing city facility to help fund renovations and pay the bond back sooner, saving taxpayers additional money (if voters approve the bond).

Isn’t there a fire station right down the street?

That fire station is not owned by the city. The city and neighboring fire districts support each other on some fire and medical calls, but there is not space for city firefighters or city-owned apparatus in that facility.

Learn More

Read the “On the Ballot” web page for more information about the August 2023 ballot, including who to contact for group presentations and if you have questions.

Related Information

City of Airway Heights news post (March 15, 2023): Airway Heights voters to decide on the future of library and fire services

News report from KREM 2 (March 15, 2023): Airway Heights residents to decide on the future of library and fire services

Article from The Spokesman-Review (April 14, 2023): Airway Heights could join Spokane County Library District to free up tax revenue

City of Airway Heights media release (May 3, 2023): Airway Heights Receives Grant to Help Offset Cost for New Fire Station

City of Airway Heights media release (May 31, 2023): Frequently Asked Questions Handout

News report from KHQ Q6 (June 15, 2023): Airway Heights voters to decide on library annexation, firefighter capacity

Broadcast from Spokane Public Radio (July 19, 2023): Airway Heights officials ask for money to build a new fire station

News report from KXLY 4 (July 19, 2023): ‘Can’t keep up’: Airway Heights voters to decide on new measures for local fire department

Article from The Inlander (July 20, 2023): Airway Heights voters are asked to hand off their library to save their fire department

Article from Cheney Free Press (July 20, 2023): Airway Heights levies on ballot

Article from The Spokesman-Review (July 20, 2023): Airway Heights asks voters for bond to pay for new fire station

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