Flagstaff City Council and mayoral candidates have been given the chance to answer a weekly question in no more than 150 words. This week’s question: How do you feel about the local tax rates within the city?
I believe voters rightly have a say in shaping local tax rates, and governments shoulder the burden of proof in demonstrating responsible management of tax dollars.
Several of 2018’s ballot questions don’t raise taxes. Prop 417—the CCC override — would result in no increase to the current secondary tax rate. Another example among many: Proposition 419 is a flat renewal of a transportation investment from 2000.
Also bear in mind that cities throughout Arizona are panhandling for basic necessities through local measures because the state won’t properly fund needs through more appropriate channels. The requests for local funding may continue until this changes. A ballot question to resolve public safety needs may appear in Flagstaff’s near future, for example.
Taxes represent our collective investment in people, safety and quality of life. Whatever voters decide this November, I pledge to help ensure taxpayers get the most value for their investments.
Flagstaff currently has average tax rates compared to the rest of Arizona, but this year we face many tax increases and I urge everyone to realize we will face more in 2020 and 2022. We need funds for our flood control project that will be at least $36 million. We need another $4.5 million to thin the forest and protect us from wildfires. We need $108 million to fix our legally required, unfunded pension liabilities to police and fire. These will likely be on the 2020 ballot. We also need to deal with our water supply through another well or advanced water repurification plant. This is why I am voting no on several propositions. We face more as a city that hasn’t been addressed — natural disaster protection, unfunded pensions, and water — and we need to set our priorities or continue adding to our very high cost of living.
Recently, the Flagstaff City Council approved the city budget and raised the primary tax level (our homes) by 7 percent for the second time in two years. Flagstaff has limited real estate. Our community is surrounded by public lands and can only expand so much. Our limited number of homes are being bought up by second home vacation owners and by Airbnb owners.
One solution to raise revenues for city services such as police, fire department, water and streets, is to tax these owners. The revenue generated could subsidize affordable home development and help fund the pension program for policemen and firemen.
We do not want to be known as the least affordable place to live nor the most taxed city in the state.
Our working citizens, retired and limited income residents need the city council to advocate for them and act wisely regarding proposals that increase taxes.
Over recent months, I have talked about why we must conserve our precious tax dollars.
Our critical priorities going forward are 1) addressing the $100 million unfunded pension plans for our public safety team, 2) Flood control, and 3) Forest fire prevention.
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Our property taxes are rising due to the inflation of home prices without any significant enhancement of our infrastructure. On November 6, property and sales taxes are to be decided upon. I am voting no on the City’s Props 420, 421 and 422. Remember, in an economic downturn, bonds get paid first.
Funding for our budget comes primarily through sales taxes. We need to go through the budget, line by item and address non-essential services. I will watch how your tax dollars are spent.
Moving forward we will have to consider capping our real estate property values (Yes, a California-type Prop 13).
Constant balance is needed when levying local taxes. Raising taxes may increase cost of living, overburden taxpayers and discourage economic activity; while low taxation may cause cutbacks of essential services.
Prudence in spending and debt is integral to fiscal responsibility. It’s imperative to discern the projects and programs for which tax dollars are spent in terms of collective impact. I pursue fiscally-prudent stewardship of public funds; wisely allocate, disburse and leverage tax dollars for additional funding from other entities. It’s also vital to be forward-looking in earmarking future funding for water supply, flood mitigation and public safety.
Flagstaff’s combined sales tax rate is 8.951 percent (state: 5.6 percent, county: 1.3 percent, and city: 2.051 percent). With an additional 2 percent BBB tax (Bed, Board and Booze) charged at restaurants, bars and hotels, sales tax within the City is 10.951 percent.
Council raised primary property taxes by 7 percent two years in a row intended for public safety.
Many of the ballot initiatives (Prop 417 supporting CCC, Prop 422 addressing the affordable housing crisis, and 419 which continues funding for basic infrastructure projects) would not raise the current tax rate. Many of these propositions, including 423, 424 continue support for FUSD, and 417 for CCC, have become necessary due to funding cuts at the state level.
Of the proposed increases, I support Prop 421 which would increase bus routes and frequencies with a sales tax increase of 15 cents per $100 spent. Our current sales tax rate of 8.951 percent is actually below the rate of cities like Prescott, Sedona, Page, and Williams, so a slight sales tax increase has precedent and will allow the community to benefit from student and tourist dollars.
Our relatively low tax rates and potential bonding capacity will allow us to address the Rio de Flag and our pension liability as well.
I wish we didn’t have to ask local voters to fund our schools, our roads, and affordable housing. However, the state government has given away massive amounts of money to privately owned charter schools, they’ve created tax loophole after loophole, and time and again let corporations and the extremely wealthy dodge paying their fair share.
For years the state cut monies to cities and counties. It is a simple fact that workers need roads to get to their jobs, children need schools. Everyone deserves housing. We have a high cost of living, but we also have high standards when it comes to what we want our community to look like. Flagstaff votes in alignment with their values, it would be nice if the state legislature did the same.