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  • Recommended budget begins to reinvest in critical programs, infrastructure

    Apr 28, 2014 | Read More News
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    The time has come for Pima County to reinvest in programs and infrastructure.none

    The County responded to a historic 16.3 percent shrinkage of the property tax base since 2009 by shaving 11.5 percent from budgets of general fund departments.

    Because it is collecting far less in overall property taxes from businesses and homeowners, the County now has 1,400 fewer employees than it did in 2009. The County’s property tax levy at that time was a high of $422 million. Comparatively, the County expects to collect only $382 million through the closing of this fiscal year – that’s $40 million, or about 10 percent, less.

    The recommended budget for the fiscal year starting July 2014 begins to respond to critical public service needs, said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

    Huckelberry noted that criminal justice needs are incurring unavoidable higher costs and remain the primary driver of the County budget, consuming 52 percent of the general fund. In fact, just four mandated services – law enforcement, courts, prosecution and indigent health costs related to criminal justice – consume more than the entire primary property tax levy of $277 million.

    A 28-cent increase in the primary property tax rate is recommended. This is an increase of approximately $20 million – restoring about half of the amount reduced since 2009.
    The secondary tax rate is recommended to increase in the Library District by 6 cents and the Flood Control District by 4 cents. These increases will largely be offset by a recommended 8-cent reduction in the Debt Service tax levy.         

     “We’ve been prudent. We’ve tightened our belt. But we can’t continue to starve our core services,” Huckelberry said. “Although taxes aren’t popular, that’s how we pay for responding to burglary calls, monitoring air quality, providing job training, and maintaining parks for our kids to play in.”

    It would be reasonable to ask how it is possible to increase the primary and secondary tax rate and still have a recommended $1.1 billion budget that’s $93 million lower than the existing one. Among the factors: a reduction in costs in the wastewater department, savings from the privatization of solid waste management, reductions in capital projects and an overall decrease in debt service.

    The budget also recommends nine decision packages for consideration by the Board of Supervisors that would add an additional 33 cents to the combined property tax rate. The packages meet needs in such areas as law enforcement, indigent defense, information technology, wildcat dump enforcement and road repair.

    A budget hearing is scheduled for May 20, when the Board will set an upper “ceiling” for the budget, which caps the total budget allocation as well as the proposed property tax levy. Final budget adoption is scheduled for June 17. Review the budget at http://webcms.pima.gov/government/county_budget/