The Pima County Board of Supervisors will consider and likely approved a property tax increase proposal by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. Huckelberry is demanding a Property Road Tax of 25 cents per $100 valuation for road repairs and maintenance.
While 25 cents doesn’t sound like much, for the residents of the fifth poorest metropolitan in the country, those pennies will add up to approximately $200 a year. For rural residents, who live in the County’s unincorporated areas, the $200 a year will not provide them with paved roads. For those people living on a fixed income, the $200 could put their homeownership at risk altogether.
Despite this, Supervisor Ally Miller, who had previously blocked Huckelberry’s efforts to raise taxes, is now on board with his plan. According to the supervisor in a Facebook post, Miller says that the “crisis situation” created by Huckelberry and a majority of supervisors, is forcing her to support the tax.
Here is my position on the Road Tax being recommended by Chuck Huckelberry:
I received County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s proposal for a Road tax that will be assessed against property valuations on Monday afternoon.
I have reviewed this proposal and I will reluctantly support this tax as we are in a crisis situation in terms of the roads in Pima County. 20 years of neglect by the Board of Supervisors have gotten us where we now find ourselvers (sic). As a result, there is no good way to dig ourselves out of this mess without some increased burden on the taxpayers.
Here are the highlights of the plan as I understand it:
• The Revenue will result in approximately $19 mil revenue per year. These monies will be dedicated to neighborhood streets. Arterials and Collectors are not included for repair in this pot of money. Arterials and Collectors will continue to be funded by HURF and VLT monies.
• Monies will be divided up among all jurisdictions based upon Net Assessed Value since this is a property tax.
• The property tax will be 25 cents per hundred dollars of Net assessed value (NAV) The county administrator has advised me that 11 cents will be offset by lowering other department spending. So this year will taxpayers will see a net increase of 14 cents per hundred of NAV for this road tax . Next year there will be an offset of the 14 cent increase making this increase tax neutral in Year 2.
• This tax will sunset in 5 years.
• The Supervisors in each district will have the authority to determine where the road monies are spent. I intend to devise a transparent and fair process to determine where these monies will go.
The root cause of our failed roads is the fact that HURF and VLT revenues are NOT getting to the roads. It is my opinion these monies should be spent directly on road repairs as intended. I intend to lobby the state legislature prior to the next session to add audit and enforcement provisions to the statutes. This will be a tough battle and I will enlist the aid of Pima County residents to contact the legislature. It is way past time to address the root cause of our problem.
The residents of Tucson passed a sales tax on Tuesday to repair road in the City, so Miller’s position might receive some support. However, the members of the Green Party and Tea Party that offered her support during this last election will probably not be forthcoming. That resistance will spring from the lack of evidence that the County has spent money in a prudent or equitable manner.
Just recently, a judge ruled against the County after it had violated the Gift Clause and Arizona’s procurement laws when it financed a risky near-space travel company. The County provided a $15 million building and hundreds of thousands of dollars in furnishings. At the same time, the County was warning residents, who can’t afford to travel across the state much less into near-space, that they would have to pay more property taxes if the Legislature would not allow an increase in gas taxes.
According to the Metropolitan Pima Alliance, “County Administrator proposes the new 25-cent primary property tax be offset by lowering the primary property tax rate. However, for Fiscal Year 2017-2018, the full 25-cent rate can’t be offset due to unavoidable personnel and operations costs in the Sheriff’s Department’s budget, including mandatory payments to the public safety retirement pension fund. The entire 25-cent rate will be offset in years two through five of the plan.”
Contrary to the claim that the costs were “unavoidable,” County leaders were aware of the personnel and operations costs, but did not have the political will to address them during this past election cycle.