North Notes
Spokane-North Rotary Club
April 1, 2024
 
Calendar:
 
           April 8: Noon meeting at the Bark. Speaker: Rick Clark, Giving Back Spokane.
 
           April 15: Noon meeting at the Bark. Speaker: Hunter Abell, developments in the legal profession.
 
           April 22: Noon meeting at the Bark. Speaker: Rod Tamura, Japanese incarceration impacts on the Tamura and Oba families.
 
           April 29: Noon meeting at the Bark. Speaker: Mike Kobluk, Expo 74 50th anniversary memories.
 
Happy Buck$:
 
           Sheila Fritts was $5 happy to note her 5th anniversary working at the Fairwood Village retirement center.
 
           Michelle Fossum was happy for an Easter weekend with husband Terry at Hill’s Resort in Priest Lake.
 
           Ron Noble was happy to have all of his family together for Easter.
 
 Happy Birthday:
 
           Eric Johnson gets older on April 7.
 
Announcement:
 
           Board member Nancy Hanson said that as part of the 50th anniversary of Expo ’74 six area Rotary clubs will staff a special table Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. near the Rotary Fountain in Riverfront Park “to make folk aware of Rotary.”
 
           Nancy said our club members are needed to staff the table for one-hour each.
 
Holmes School gets cleaner
       
           Sandy Fink, our club’s coordinator for the Holmes Elementary School supply closet annual project, can now add detergent and dryer sheets to her wish list.
 
           Thanks to the help of Sheila Fritts and Ron Noble and a generous anonymous donor, Holmes now has a new washing machine and dryer when needed for soiled garments from the building and playground.
 
Ron Noble and Holmes Principal, Kale Colyar
 
     
No fooling, it’s tax time
           One of the first things Michael Baumgartner mentioned is the distinction about who raises taxes in Spokane County.
 
           “I am the treasurer, not the county assessor,” he told the April 1 club luncheon.  “I am your banker.  The assessor adjusts the rates for levies and bonds.”
           Mike, who was elected treasurer in 2018, was joined at the lunch with Hillary Pham, the county treasurer’s inter-governmental affairs officer.
 
           While Mike knows very well about the distinctions about raising taxes, he has much to talk about how those rates have risen, especially for schools, while he was in the State Senate from 2010 to 2018.
 
            He said the Democratic legislative majority and the governor, also a Democrat, helped push teacher salaries “to the highest in the nation.”   He added that with smaller class loads statewide, “there are also some very expensive new buildings.”
 
            Mike and wife, Eleanor, know personally about public schools, since four of their five children are in school.
 
            Baumgartner shared how the growth of Spokane County property taxes raised during his term: $579 million in 2019; $658 million, in 2020; $713 million in 2021; $770 million in 2022; $818 million in 2023 and $856 million in 2024.  That is an increase of $277 million from 2019.
      
            He said about 60 percent of the taxes fund public K-12 education, including salaries and  buildings, and 40 percent of tax bills are self-imposed by tax payers for school bonds and levies. 
 
            The treasurer’s management team, including Pham and six others, supervise banking services for 80 local government entities and a $1.9 billion portfolio.  Using an array of U.S.  Treasury notes, Fannie Mac, Fannie Mae, World Bank and corporate bonds, he said more than $120 million in earnings have accrued since 2019 tax years.
 
            He said the Treasurer's office also has been able to speed funding for projects like the expensive Bigelow Gulch widening.
 
 
 
            Baumgartner said the increasing tax rate does hit hard for some homeowners, especially seniors on fixed-rate incomes.  Last year senior and disabled property tax exemptions went to 10,595 participants, 1,000 more than in 2022.  
 
            “Some people come to our office with tears in their eyes because they can’t pay their taxes,” he said.
 
            To keep the access, he said, a City of Spokane Valley office and several other collection points are opened during spring and fall tax deadline times.
 
            Asked how his office has worked with five commissioners rather than three, Baumgartner said he probably would have liked a county executive system to help manage the load.
 
           He also was asked about his candidacy for the 5th District Congressional seat where long-term Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she will not seek re-election. 
 
           Baumgartner, 48, is a Pullman native.  His mom was an elementary teacher and his dad a professor at WSU.  Mike has a major in economics and minors in French and math at WSU and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard. 
 
           He met Eleanor while working in Afghanistan and Mike worked there and in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in strategic planning.
 
           He said he would like to get involved in international issues and said he has talked with Cathy about “how much could get done in four years,” telling him that much could be done.
 
           But for now Mike reminds property owners that first-half county taxes are due April 30.
 
Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink.