It’s no secret that the roadways in Pima County are in bad shape. However, the problem has been finding a funding source that all, or even the majority, of the Pima County Board of Supervisors could agree on.
As directed by the Board of Supervisors, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry laid out options for how to solve the problem. That solution would involve the entire board approving a half-cent sales tax approved to bring more than $76 million a year, with $30 million of that to go toward road repair.
This option could mean fixing Pima County roads in seven or eight years, Huckelberry said in the lengthy Aug. 1 memorandum where he laid out a variety options.
By approving the sales-tax hike, Huckelberry said it would provide significant funding for the road-repair plan that in total will cost the county on estimated $264 million to repair the county’s 1,855 miles of roads.
On average, Huckelberry said for every $1 million of funding available, seven miles of roads can be rehabilitated.
“Thus, $38 million would address, at a minimum, the preservation of 266 miles of roads annually,” Huckelberry explains to the board.
After the initial rehabilitation cycle in seven to eight years, Huckelberry recommended a plan to have the sales tax excess be applied toward property-tax reduction. While Pima County has the highest property taxes of any Arizona county, it has the lowest in sales taxes, which means not all demographics are paying.
“A significant difference between property taxes and sales taxes is that a portion of sales tax revenues is paid by individuals and businesses that do not reside in Pima County but who benefit from county services,” Huckelberry said. “Sales tax payments by non-residents increase the net amount of funds available to provide these services.”
If passed, Huckelberry said the sales tax would apply not only in unincorporated Pima County, but also in the incorporated towns inside the county.
“Dedicating one-half the proposed sales tax would provide significant funding for this plan,” Huckleberry said. “It is anticipated the county would receive $76 million in net sales tax proceeds in fiscal year 2015/16, the first full year of collections. Thirty-eight million of these proceeds would be dedicated to pavement preservation and reconstruction and repair and maintenance of roads.”
Without a sales tax for so long, Huckelberry said the county has been forced to rely more on primary property taxes to fund services and programs inside the general fund.
“In fiscal year 2014/15, the primary property tax levy is funding 62 percent of our General Fund expenditures,” Huckelberry said. “The county’s reliance on the primary property tax is the highest of any county in Arizona and is a direct result of not levying a sales tax.”
While Huckelberry feels this is a good approach to take to not only address road-repair issues facing the county, he also feels it could lesson property taxes currently being levied in the county. However, for the recommended plan of action to pass, Huckelberry must receive approval from the entire Board of Supervisors.
To date, Republican District 4 Supervisor Ray Carroll has never approved a tax hike of any kind. Currently in her first term in office, Republican District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller has also been critical of any kind of tax hike, and is also often at odds with Huckelberry on how to address road-repair issues.
While Huckelberry stressed the best option to consider is a sales tax hike, he also laid out options for a property-tax increase and a gas-tax increase, but noted neither was optimal.