Pima County tax base reduced by historic 16 percent

pima-county-supervisors-richard-elias-ramon-valadezThe request of Vistoso Catalina L.P. for a rezoning change of approximately 2.9 acres from GR-1 (Rural Residential) to CR-3 (Single Residence) (Cluster Development Option), on property located on the west side of Twin Lakes Drive in Catalina should have been a simple matter for the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Miller was absent from the meeting last week due to the illness resulting in a tie vote on the proposal.

Miller supported the change of the zoning of the property located in her district. The vote was expected to be 3-2 in favor of the change this week.

There was no opposition to the request from neighbors, and the tax base is so quickly dwindling in Pima County that even a small development like Vistoso Catalina should have been seen as a asset that the area can ill afford to lose. Yet, in an inexplicable move, Supervisor Ray Carroll, who had voted for the zoning change the week before, voted against the change yesterday.

Immediately before the vote, Carroll left the dais and was followed by Supervisor Ramon Valadez. Within moments Supervisor Richard Elias left the dais and appeared to join the two in the back room. Moments later, thee three returned to their seats, and in moments a tax producing development was destroyed for the time being.

Nothing changed, but Carroll’s vote. Opposition didn’t grow during the week. The proposal did not change during the week. Yet, Carroll’s position on the zoning change did change after his off dias side meeting with Valadez and Elias.

The proposal failed in a 3-2 vote.

The proposed rezoning conformed to the Pima County Comprehensive Plan (Co7-00-20). The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend the zoning change. Pima County staff even recommended the Board’s approval of the project.

Yet it failed.

One attendee at the meeting said later, “It is the arbitrary nature of the Pima County Board of Supervisors decisions that leads so many in the business community to believe that there must be something more to getting developments approved than good plans, and community support. What are the magic words, and who do you have to hire?”

In a memo by Pima County administrator Chuck Huckelberry dated January 9, 2014, he advised that “shrinkage of the property tax base since FY 2009/10 to today is equal to a 16 percent reduction; the largest in our history of property tax assessed value since inception of the modern property tax system since 1977.”

“The property tax base expands in two ways: 1) through appreciation of the real property and value, and 2) through new growth or new taxable properties added to the tax roll. There is little appreciation attached to the tax base today, and new growth is limited to between 1 and 2 percent. It is the reality upon which our FY 2014/25 Budget will be based. While cities and towns will celebrate the increase in sales tax revenues, our revenue growth from economic recovery is stagnant,” concluded Huckelberry.

Yet, in one inexplicable and obviously arbitrary move, the Pima County Board of Supervisors crushed one more development through which property taxes might have been derived.

Business people say this action is yet another example of why developers, large and small, will continue second guessing whether they will decide to invest thousands of dollars only to be turned down for their projects without explanation….without reason. In the end it is the taxpayers of Pima County who suffers the most as our property base continues to shrink and job creation is stifled by the Pima County board of Supervisors.

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