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Pima County raises property taxes for roads

Will consider sales tax
Posted at 7:39 PM, Jun 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-20 22:39:17-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Pima County residents are getting a bump in their property tax to help make county roads less bumpy.

Supervisors just passed a budget that adds 25 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value.

The county says the first year tax boost would be about 18 dollars a year for a house worth $153,000 and drop in years that follow. 

Pima County collects property taxes whether your property is inside the unincorporated county or inside city limits.   So the money collected cannot be limited just to unincorporated county roads.  Cities will get a share too.

Instead of the original plan that let supervisors decide which roads get repairs in their districts, some supervisors wanted a county wide advisory board.

Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy wanted to keep the last word for their districts, Richard Elias worried road repairs would be political favors.

He said, “I'm sorry but the days of that kind of pork barrel decision making is gone.  Supervisors shouldn't sit here and pontificate on where that money's going to be spent without having a realistic process that involves citizens, that involves intelligent discussion that is not just at a Supervisor's whim over what roads are going to be improved."

Steve Christy said, “I don't know how the discussion devolved into pork and to whims and…. 

Elias interrupted Christy.

Christy: "Could I please speak?" 

Elias: I'm just telling you..." 

Christy: And to people of certain positions in the community.”

Christy said he just wanted to stay with the original plan and feels Supervisors are close enough to their constituents to be the best judges of where to apply road repair money.

But he and Miller lost a three to two vote. The advisory committee will recommend repairs, but the entire board of supervisors will decide which roads get repairs.

Supervisors are thinking about switching to a sales tax to raise money for roads.

They decided to spend a year asking the public whether it should use sales tax to help pay for the roads.

To help improve roads Pima County Supervisors are thinking about asking you to spend an extra half cent for every dollar you spend. But people who live in the unincorporated county are already spending more than six cents per dollar when you consider state sales tax and tax for the Regional Transportation Authority.  Other jurisdictions, other cities stack on even more sales tax.  The City of Tucson would end up with a total tax bill of about nine-point-one cents per dollar.

Sales tax would probably raise more money and tap into tourist dollars but it's often rapped as harder on the poor because they pay a bigger share of their income on everyday expenses.

Supervisor Richard Elias says, “District 5 has some very tough neighborhoods.  Sales taxes are regressive in nature.  They impact the poor far greater than they do people who are affluent. That makes me very uncomfortable."

But Elias says the county should at least look into diversifying how it covers its' costs.

Supervisor Ramon Valadez says nobody likes raising taxes but the county's running out of options.

"When options are presented and all we say is 'no' does the problem go away?"

So supervisors voted unanimously to ask what voters think and decide in time for next year's budget whether to impose a sales tax.