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Property Tax: Trusting the Town Council

March 2, 2018 12:20 pm

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One of the critical issues for voters in Fountain Hills is trusting the town council. The May 15 primary property tax special election will determine if the voters agree to give the Council permission to levy a tax.

The Fountain Hills Town Council has identified four key areas that necessitate the $7M primary property tax:

  • Additional funding for street maintenance $4M.
  • Offsetting of public safety costs (Rural metro and MCSO) $1.5M.
  • Funding for Facilities Replacement Fund $1M.
  • Replacement of environmental fee $.5M.

 

This information is shared with the Town Manager and Budget Director’s presentation from the January 30, 2018 Town Council meeting. (View page 12 here.) The FH Times article, by Bob Burns, How tax dollars will be used explains in more details the Town’s plan.

A sitting council cannot legally bind a future council. They can make recommendations and create an annual budget that clearly shows the intended use of funds. The current Council and Town staff have been very specific about the spending for this tax. Additionally, the Town Manager, Grady Miller, has also committed to give the Council and citizens of Fountain Hills a quarterly update (starting in Q3) on the use of funds within the 4 key areas.

Can we trust the Town Council to spend the primary property tax on the four key areas as promised? Since the onset of the Council’s decision to a special election for the primary property tax there have been many remarks about how they will spend the money. It seems unreasonable that after so much public comment about the key areas of financial need, and the Town’s very specific identification of roads, public safety, reserve/replacement fund and removal of the environmental fee, they Council would spend it any other way.

Feasibility studies are needed for complex priorities. Citizens are commenting about various studies (lagoon, signage, traffic signals) over the last few years. Let’s get something clear, all government agencies hire consultants with expertise in a subject area to provide guidance and recommendations based on the agency goals, budget and strategic plan. Studies also provide transparency to the public as they are part of the Council’s agenda and public record. Some studies determine a concept is not feasible while others allow an entity to move forward with good data, direction and confidence.

Maintaining Infrastructure is in the plan. Reading the Town’s strategic plan shows how the Town Council and Manager are focused on bringing assets up to established standards. How would they accomplish this IF facing a $6.4M budget shortfall? Two answers, cut services (save money) or increase revenue.

fountain-hills-town-council-strategic-plan

Fountain Hills Strategic Plan

Property taxes are not new to you. Most of us migrated to Arizona and the Phoenix metro area for many reasons–weather, low cost to purchase real estate, outdoor activities and more. In your previous state and/or city were the property taxes actually less? Doubtful. Most midwest and east coast States have rates that are 2-3 times the cost in Arizona. According to USA Today, Arizona ranks #39 in lowest effective tax rates. See here. New Jersey is the highest with an average annual property tax of $8,477 while Arizona’s is only $1,918.

Before you vote in the May 15 special election, answer this question, “Where should we cut $6.4M (19%) from the $33M budget if the primary property tax does not pass?” Then vote YES and let’s all pitch-in to Save Our Town.

Finally, if you don’t trust the current Council, then run for office or vote in someone else this fall.

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