Commissioner’s Plan to Fix Latah Valley

Spokane County Commissioner Al French has come up with a little used tax incentive packages that he believes can fix the woes of homeowners in the Latah Vally area. For the past two years, neighbors have complained that the problems they face will only be exasperated by the addition of more homes. As a result, neighbors have received two building moratoriums for the area, citing challenges with existing roads and infrastructure. Additionally, they would like to see a county park, transportation options such as bike paths connecting to trails, a fire station, and a community center.

But in growth, French sees a solution.

“There are key tax rebate programs designed by the state that we’re not using,” said Commissioner French. “We’re talking about $175-million that’s just waiting to be accessed to help the people of Latah Valley.”

French believes the answer lies in using a combination of two key tax programs. The first, the “TIF” and the “LIFT” rules. The first, a program authorized by the State called “Tax Increment Financing,” (TIF) (link: where the City of Spokane can use a future portion of the increased property tax value for infrastructure. The second, the Local Infrastructure Financing Tool,” (LIFT) (link: where  the state provides financial support for local infrastructure projects in designated areas called Revenue Development Areas (RDAs). Essentially the city would see a portion of the anticipated sales tax for construction as a rebate to help with public infrastructure.

“This is as close to an economic win-win as we get,” said French.

Under French’s model, the City and the County would work jointly to manage a $150-million-dollar revolving fund for immediate projects. He believes there are some 3,800 homes already in the pipeline that would contribute to these funds immediately.

To make this work, French sees the following steps are necessary:

  • Latah Valley Neighbors produce a project priority checklist with the City of Spokane
  • The City agrees on a boundary area for the tax zones for TIF and LIFT
  • Both the City an Spokane County sign a working agreement
  • Timelines for construction are set – working with WSDOT
  • City of Spokane works with state lawmakers to add “public safety” to the list of covered costs under TIF/LIFT

French first presented his ideas to the Latah Neighborhood in December.