Pima County hiking new-home fees

Typical $279 increase is earmarked for roads; builders object, say economy is still too fragile
2013-06-29T00:00:00Z Pima County hiking new-home feesJoe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry plans to increase roadway development impact fees by $279 for typical single-family homes starting next week.

The Southern Arizona Home Builders Association objects, disputing Huckelberry's assertions the economy has recovered enough to support such an increase.

Huckelberry said the county cannot afford to postpone scheduled increases in the fee. SAHBA contends the local economy is far too fragile to absorb the hike.

"We are disappointed the county is choosing to adopt this rate at this time," said Shawn Cote, government affairs associate for the homebuilders association.

He disagreed with Huckelberry's assessment the local construction market is recovering, saying the housing market remains sensitive to price increases.

Huckelberry defended his decision, reminding the Pima County Board of Supervisors the housing industry benefited from a number of fee increases being postponed over the last few years.

"The last two years of not increasing transportation impact fees; the last three years of forgoing building code fee increases; and our General Fund Subsidy to the Development Services Department of over $5.4 million over the past few years is now being outshadowed by our decision to resume the inflation base adjustment for transportation impact fees," Huckelberry wrote in a memo Friday.

A year ago, Southern Arizona Home Builders Association President David Godlewski said the county was supporting homebuilders when it opted to back two fee breaks. "The county is building a track record of supporting the recovery of the construction industry, which has been a key component of our local economy," Godlewski said then.

Roots of the dispute

The disagreement between county officials and SAHBA on this issue seems to be a continuation of an earlier dispute between the two over a statewide increase in the gas tax.

Supervisors backed lobbying the Legislature for an increase in the statewide fuel tax because the costs to fix county-maintained roads continue to climb at the same time that one of the biggest sources of funding - the state's Highway User Revenue Fund - is declining.

Huckelberry said he was disappointed in a letter sent by SAHBA on Monday, in which the builders group was unwilling to back a proposed 10-cent increase in the gas tax.

"As we recover from the economic downturn, it's imperative we understand how fragile our recovery is to both private business and working-class families," Godlewski wrote last week. "These taxes are regressive in nature, and disproportionately affect those families and businesses in Pima County who are struggling the most to participate in our recovery."

County officials argue the tax is not regressive.

"To claim a fuel tax is regressive misses the point and ignores decades of how transportation infrastructure has been financed in this state and our nation - through a gas tax. It is certainly not regressive since public transportation is essentially freely available throughout our region," Huckelberry said.

The county is expected to lobby state legislators on increasing the gas tax in the coming months, despite SAHBA's objections.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346.

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