On Nov. 12, 2002, the Cheney City Council brought Proposition No. 1 to Cheney voters, which calls for a 6.5 percent tax increase on natural gas and electricity for maintaining funding of Parks and Recreation Programs.
The City of Cheney states the reason for the tax increase is because Initiative 695 ($30 Car Tabs) and Initiative 747 (limiting property tax increases) cut funding from the City of Cheney so much that the mandatory services such as Parks and Recreation will no longer have the funding available to support their programs.
Many of the curriculums the Cheney Parks and Recreation Programs implement are public swimming pools, youth arts, out of school activities for youth, teens, and senior adult programs just to mention a few.
City of Cheney is currently facing a deficit of a half million dollars. The tax proposal would only be in effect for three years gaining estimated revenue of $1.5 million. The 6.5 percent tax in utilities would mean $7.90 per month or $95 per year from a typical single-family home. There would also be a “non-resident fee” for people not living in Cheney to use the Parks and Recreation Programs services.
Police and fire departments were never in consideration for the City of Cheney to cut budget and services, because the City of Cheney judges public safety services are crucial to the well being of the community.
If the voters of Cheney were to decide not to approve the tax increase, the programs created and supported by the Parks and Recreation Programs would no longer receive funding. In addition, the City of Cheney would only have enough money to employee 1.5 employees for maintenance only.
Prior to the 6.5 percent utility tax increase, the City of Cheney let a 13.5 percent tax increase on water and taxes go through without a vote from Cheney residents. Quickly, a petition was signed and the tax for water and garbage was abolished.
Eastern Washington University would not have been affected by the tax increase if the tax had remained just water and garbage. Now the university stands to face additional utilities costs. A possible indirect cost of this tax could affect students directly with higher dorm costs or tuition.
Save the Parks and Recreation (SPAR) sent out leaflets to residents informing them of the tax increase. The official voting ballot will be mail-only, which Cheney residents should be receiving in the mail later this week. The ballot would then have to be filled out and returned and post marked to Spokane County no later than February 4 to be valid.
Al Frank, the director of Cheney Parks and Recreation Programs, urges all eligible voters to approve the 6.5 percent tax increase for the continuation of services for Cheney residents.