It was a tale of east versus west at the polls last week as voters weighed in on the county road tax.
Prop. 403, which will hike taxes throughout Coconino County by three-tenths of a cent to fund road repairs, easily passed by a roughly 3-to-2 margin in Tuesday’s general election with roughly 29,000 votes counted as of Friday afternoon.
But the county was geographically divided over the issue.
While every precinct in the eastern half of Coconino County voted in favor of raising taxes to reapair and maintain county roads, nearly all precincts in the western part of the county voted against it.
Political leanings did appear to play at least some part in the county road tax decision. Page West, Fredonia, Kaibab North, Kaibab West and Tusayan, which all voted against the road tax, also swung Republican in the gubernatorial and Congressional District 1 races Tuesday. But Havasupai, which voted for the Democratic candidates in both of those races, also said “no” to the county road tax.
At the same time, many Republican-leaning precincts, such as Williams and Blue Ridge, voted in favor of the tax.
Northern Arizona University politics professor Fred Solop conducted a poll on the sales tax for the county last year. He said the results of the election may have been based on voters' distance from Flagstaff, not just the East-West dynamic.
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"There was a direct relationship between where one lived and how one perceived the county transportation tax," Solop said. "As we moved farther away from Flagstaff, opposition to the tax increased. That dynamic seemed to have played out in the election."
Precincts in Flagstaff added around 8,601 “yes” votes to Prop. 403. But even if city residents had not been able to vote in the election, the county road tax still would have easily passed with around 9,900 votes for it and 6,600 votes against it.
The county expects to bring in between $6 million and $7 million a year for the next 20 years with the new road tax.
Votes for the Flagstaff city road tax were more evenly dispersed.
Like the county road tax, Prop. 406 passed Tuesday by a nearly 3-to-2 margin with around 12,000 city ballots counted as of Friday afternoon. The tax, which will pay for Flagstaff road repairs by increasing the sales tax rate within the city limits by one-third of a cent, passed in all but one of Flagstaff’s voting precincts.
It even passed in the two precincts with more registered Republicans than Democrats: Precinct 7, which includes the Boulder Point neighborhood, and Precinct 24, which includes Boulder Ridge, Tanglewood, Walnut Meadows, Amberwood, Lakeside Acres and part of Country Club Estates.
The one holdout was Flagstaff’s 26th precinct, which is home to Smokerise Valley and Industrial Park. As of Friday afternoon, the vote there was 148 to 123 against the city road tax. The 26th precinct also voted for Republican Doug Ducey in the gubernatorial race despite having more registered Democrats than Republicans. However, voters in the 26th precinct opted for the Democratic candidate, Ann Kirkpatrick, in the Congressional District 1 race and also passed the other two tax measures on the ballot.
"Precinct 26 is within Flagstaff, but it's on the border and election behavior seems more like a district outside Flagstaff than inside Flagstaff," Solop said. "Time and time again, we see in our polling that Flagstaff residents tend to be more supportive of paying higher taxes for governmental services and election precincts outside the city are less supportive. It may be that some of the same dynamics that lead people to live outside of Flagstaff city limits are in play in Precinct 26."
The city tax is expected to raise $106 million over the next 20 years for road repairs. The passage of both the city and the county road taxes will bring the total sales tax rate within Flagstaff city limits to 8.9 percent.
Even Flagstaff’s 26th precinct joined the rest of the city in saying “yes” to Flagstaff Unified School District’s budget override continuation question Tuesday.
The override has gained popularity since it was originally passed by voters in a 2010 special election. In 2010, 54 percent of voters were in favor of the override, compared with 61 percent this year. It also gained 3,300 more “yes” votes, while the number of “no” votes was down just slightly from 2010.
The measure, which will allow FUSD to keep its 15-percent budget override for another seven years, got strong support in Leupp, Tolani Lake, Cameron, the Fort Valley precincts, the Timberline-Fernwood area and Pumphouse Wash.
It did not fare as well in some of the other rural areas outside Flagstaff city limits. The Blue Ridge, Pinewood, Winona, Doney Park, Schultz, Sunset Crater, Mountain View, Mormon Lake, Parks, Bellemont and Ranches precincts all voted against the override question.
“I think people, in general, certainly care about the cumulative impact of any taxes,” said Coconino County District Four Supervisor Mandy Metzger, whose district covers several of the precincts that voted against the override. “But why those particular precincts were different, I don’t really know.”
One possible explanation is the political makeup of those precincts. All of them voted Republican in the gubernatorial race and all but Winona also went Republican in the Congressional District 1 race. However, there were other precincts that voted Republican in those races but still supported the FUSD override. In addition, all the precincts that voted against the override voted in favor of the county road tax.
Metzger said it was interesting that some precincts voted for one tax and not another.
“I think it demonstrates that the electorate really does go to the polls with a discerning eye,” Metzger said.
The FUSD override allows the school district to exceed by 15 percent the cap the state has set on the total property tax revenues it can collect. It will cost the local homeowner with a house valued at $200,000 about $144 in Fiscal Year 2015, according to FUSD’s election materials.
District officials estimate they will be able to bring in around $7.3 million per year in override money for seven years beginning in Fiscal Year 2016. Revenues from the override go directly into FUSD’s operating budget.