The three Democrats on the Pima County Board of Supervisors are proposing a 7 percent property tax rate increase for next year, or about $52 for the average single-family homeowner.
The move would generate $3.9 million in unallocated revenue for the county in the next fiscal year, adding to the $1.27 billion budget proposed by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry last month.
The proposal is slightly higher than the 5.5 percent property tax increase Huckelberry recommended last month. The three Democrats who voted for the increase say it is needed for programs that their constituents have been demanding.
Topping the list will be filling potholes, sealing cracks and otherwise fixing county-maintained roads - 62 percent of which have earned a failing grade. Some board members also said additional pay raises may be needed for Sheriff's deputies to remain competitive with other law enforcement agencies.
Both Republican supervisors opposed the move, noting they were uncomfortable increasing the primary property tax rate even as assessments continue to fall.
County officials said the average homeowner will likely pay about the same amount as last year because the 7 percent rate hike is offset by a 7 percent decline in property values. The current average assessed value, according to county officials, is $144,835. Last year's average assessed value was $155,834.
Without the rate increase, the average homeowner would pay $52 less, but the county would be forced to make significant budget cuts. Most homeowners will likely pay what they did last year because tax valuations are still dropping, county officials said.
Supervisor Sharon Bronson, who made the initial motion on Tuesday, said that by raising the spending limit the board can have a serious discussion about putting more revenue into certain programs.
"Obviously, the most critical issue is roads. This gives us some flexibility to address some issues," Bronson said.
Supervisor Ramón Valadez agreed, saying putting the additional revenues into road was one of the reasons he supported Bronson's motion.
However, he said the action on Tuesday was only a preliminary step in establishing a budget for the next fiscal cycle.
The board could still decide to lower the tax levy next month, he said.
Valadez said he was holding out hope the entire board could back a plan next month for where the currently unallocated revenue would go.
The will be a hard sell for Republican Supervisor Ray Carroll.
"It is an accountant's budget, but it is not a taxpayer's budget," Carroll said. "It balances in revenues and expenses, but it does not balance in the burden it places on our taxpayers' pocketbooks."
While Democrats focused on the roads, the Tuesday meeting was dominated by employees and union representatives who were unhappy with the current proposed pay raises for employees.
Huckelberry is currently recommending 3 percent across-the-board raises for all employees, plus one-time bonuses for most workers, restoring past public-safety cuts and fixing 100 miles of road.
Tax rate proposals
Bronson Huckelberry Current tax rate
Combined tax rate $5.13 $5.07 $4.81
Change $ $0.32 $0.26 0
Change % 6.7% 5.4% 0
Tax bill* $742.83 $734.14 $696.27
* Based on the average home price of $144,835
Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4346.