When it comes to the upcoming midterm election, Flagstaff and Coconino County residents have their mind on their money and their money on their mind.
Almost all of the local propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot affect sales tax and property tax, be it new sources or continuances of initiatives from previous elections. Coupled with Proposition 418's potential impact on minimum wage and Prop 422's attempt to tackle affordable housing, everything from 417 to 424 could have an effect on the Flagstaff economy to some extent.
In the past, the Daily Sun has weighed in on ballot items and council candidates with endorsements, but given the turmoil the newspaper faced in the past few months, that's not an approach we're taking this election cycle. Instead, let's look at the financial impact of the propositions on this year's ballot and what they mean in the bigger picture.
Propositions 419, 420 and 421 deal with transportation initiatives in Flagstaff, from road improvements to the Lone Tree overpass to an increase in Mountain Line service. Their goal is to help alleviate traffic flow problems across the city.
Prop 419 is the renewal of a sales tax that was implemented in 2000, while 420 and 421 would be new taxes.
The city's portion of sales tax is currently 2.051 percent; with the county and state portions, the current total is 8.951 percent. If all three propositions pass, the local sales tax would be 2.431 percent and the total 9.331 percent. If voters shot down all three propositions, the local sales tax would go down to 1.625 percent in 2020 and the overall total to 8.525 percent.
The city's Bed, Board and Beverage (BBB) tax adds 2 percent at hotels, restaurants, bars and more.
Put another way, the renewal of Prop 419 represents 42.6 cents on an applicable $100 purchase for 21 years; 420 is an increase of 23 cents on $100 for 20 years; and 421 is 15 cents on $100 for 11 years.
The question before voters is how much value they place in each initiative. Prop 419 is full of improvements for drivers, bikers and pedestrians alike, 420 could alleviate pressure on Butler by extending Lone Tree to Route 66, and 421 would increase the frequency of Mountain Line buses.
Traffic flow and gridlock are undeniable issues in our community; voters have to decide if these initiatives are the right steps toward addressing it.
Propositions 417, 423 and 424 deal with education. Prop 417 is a continuation of Coconino Community College's secondary property tax that was implemented in 1999; 423 is a new $75 million bond for the Flagstaff Unified School District; and 424 would be a seven-year extension of FUSD's $15 million budget override.
Prop 417 would maintain a cost of $12.45 per year on a house with an assessed value of $100,000, or $43.58 on a house valued at $350,000; 423's bond would take 20 years to pay off and add about $16 annually to the $41.94 per $100,000 of value homeowners already pay for the 2006 and 2012 bonds, or $56 on a $350,000 home; 424 would extend the $68 per $100,000 in property value, or $238 on a $350,000 home, but not increase it.
The Red for Ed movement called attention to Arizona's issues with education funding earlier this year. Both CCC and FUSD have scrambled to maintain funding in light of the state's reduction in support in the last decade. Homeowners and prospective homeowners alike will have to decide if they can put a price on quality education, and if so, how much.
In conversations with Flagstaff residents and voters over the last few months, Proposition 418 has been the source of much debate. The one thing we want to make clear is what a "yes" and "no" vote mean this November, so that people on either side aren't casting the wrong vote by mistake.
Voting yes on Prop 418 will align the city's minimum wage with the state's, which will be $11 in 2019; Flagstaff's minimum wage would rise 50 cents above the state rate in 2021. Voting no on Prop 418 will maintain the minimum wage increase schedule, which is currently $11 and will reach $15.50 by 2022, as approved by 54 percent of voters in the 2016 election and amended by City Council last year. The result of 418 will also impact tipped employees.
Proposition 422 is the city's first attempt to address affordable housing through bonding. The new $25 million bond would be repaid via the secondary property tax.
In talking to people across Flagstaff, some have said that the bond's language is too ambiguous to know what the money would be used for, while others have stressed that the flexibility is vital for the 20-year lifespan of the bond.
According to an Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona report from last year, only 45 percent of Flagstaff residents own a home, compared to 63 percent in Arizona and 64 percent nationwide. Voters will have to decide if 422 is the correct next step in addressing the issue.
Ultimately, we stress the importance of voters applying due diligence when it comes time to vote, either through mail-in ballots or at the polls on Nov. 6. These propositions could have a huge impact on Coconino County and Flagstaff in particular, and more financial decisions are likely coming in the 2020 election as well.
As former editor Randy Wilson put it in an editorial two years ago, "Voting might be messy, but few things in civic life that matter are anything else."