Last month, Marana voters received a ballot in the mail with just one question on it. But it’s a question that has a huge impact on how our local government serves residents and business owners over the next four years.
Residents are deciding whether the town should retain its home rule option until 2017. Home rule enables a local government to set its budget based on the revenues it collects. It has no effect on the town’s ability to collect sales taxes or fees for services. It also doesn’t allow government to create new taxes.
This vote was made necessary in 1980 when Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment designed to limit the annual expenditures of cities and towns. The amendment uses a formula that adjusts a municipality’s actual expenditures of local revenues, using fiscal year 1980 as the base year, and permits increased spending limits based on population growth and inflation.
Marana has grown exponentially in the past 33 years; our town had a little more than 1,600 residents back then. Current estimates place our population near 37,000. Unfortunately, the state formula doesn’t keep pace with fast-growing communities like ours, and the town would have to compromise core services if the home rule provision is voted down.
With a yes vote to keep home rule intact, the town would have an estimated budget capacity of $91.5 million next fiscal year. The town could continue using existing revenues to address community priorities, including police protection and upkeep of roads and parks.
With a no vote, the budget would be cut more than half to a projected $43.2 million.
The town maintains a balanced budget and is responsible in the way it spends tax dollars. For the past six years, our finance department has won transparency in budgeting awards from the Government Finance Officers Association. We live within our means and keep our community clean, safe and healthy by only relying on existing revenues.
Our council and senior staff are fiscally conservative with taxpayer dollars. It’s an approach that has served us well and helped the town to become a place people enjoy living, working and doing business.
A yes vote would keep the town on the same path to success that we’ve maintained since our incorporation in 1977. A no vote would force us to make tough decisions and deep budget cuts. Voters will ultimately make the call.
For more information on town elections, please visit www.marana.com/elections.
(Editor’s Note: Ed Honea is the mayor of Marana.)