Flagstaff voters may have the chance to weigh in on a new sales tax that would be used to fund parks and open space projects in November 2018.
A group of citizens, calling themselves the “Yes on Parks” committee have proposed a one-eighth-cent sales tax, from which revenues would be placed into a fund dedicated to pay for capital projects to acquire and protect open space, acquire, develop and maintain parks, recreation facilities, sports facilities and trail systems.
In a presentation to the Flagstaff Sustainability Commission, Charles Hammersley, one of the citizens proposing the tax, said the idea is modeled on a 2002 citizens' ballot measure that was passed in Coconino County, which was allowed to expire in 2014.
That tax collected $33 million over its lifetime and funded 11 projects, including acquiring more open space at Rogers Lake Natural Area, Fort Tuthill County Park and Pumphouse County Natural Area, as well as park and trail development at Fort Tuthill and the amphitheater, Louise Yellowman County Park, Peaks View County Park, Raymond Park, Sawmill Park and Navajo Nation Interpretive sites at Grand Falls, Hammersley said in an email.
Hammersley, a professor of parks and recreation management at NAU, and Jack Welch, the other presenter at the meeting, considered going back to the county supervisors to put the issue on the ballot, but found there was “no appetite for it” at the county level, Hammersley said.
When the first sales tax was passed at the county level, it failed in all districts except Flagstaff and Cameron, Hammersley told the Sustainability Commission. The idea behind the sales tax is citizen-driven, but it is not an initiative, Hammersley said. The group is not collecting signatures to put anything on the ballot.
Instead, they are going to ask the city council to vote to put the issue on the 2018 ballot. They need four affirmative votes on the issue for it to go to the voters.
Before that can happen, however, the two are leading a series of public meetings to get an idea of the projects that would be funded by the tax. At the meetings, citizens and groups involved with recreation, sports and open space will have a chance to list what projects they would like to see included.
“I think we will see some amazing agreements, and we want people to think big,” Hammersley said to the Sustainability Commission at its meeting July 6. “There is not going to be any (new city budgeted) recreation funding, maybe in the next 10 years.”
Hammersley said he expects there to be significant overlap between suggestions, and said the “Yes on Parks” steering committee will then be tasked with deciding which projects will be funded and what the total amount generated from the tax will be. By law the ballot measure would have to list what projects will be funded and how much it will cost.
The two have already presented to several of the city’s commissions and met individually with councilmembers to try to gain support. Hammersley sits on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and Welch serves on the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, both of which were asked to weigh in on projects to be funded by the tax, should it pass.
Land acquisition is the likely first step for the money, Hammersley said, adding that this is a chance for the city to buy private property to preserve as open space or create park space.
“The land is disappearing,” he said.
According to Hammersley and Welch, the tax would cost the average Flagstaff household about $1.63 per month. Hammersley said financial analysis showed that if the tax had existed in 2016, it would have collected $2.5 million based on sales volume that year in Flagstaff.
The first public meeting will be held Wednesday, July 26, at 6 p.m. at the Aquaplex and is open to the public.