County wants 5% property tax hike

Increase of $35 for average owner would come amid employee raises
2013-05-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T11:21:32Z County wants 5% property tax hikeBecky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is proposing a 5 percent property tax rate increase for next year, or about $35 for the average single-family homeowner.

The money will help fund the manager's proposed $1.27 billion budget for the next fiscal year, which is about 2.6 percent higher than this year's figure.

Some of the spending increases Huckelberry is recommending to the Board of Supervisors include 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.

With the county's average assessed home value at about $130,000, the proposed rate increase would add about $35 tax bills. But Huckelberry said most homeowners will likely see a smaller bottom line than they did last year because tax valuations, which are two years behind the market, are still dropping, on average.

"The bottom line is, in the aggregate, and there's always exceptions, taxes should go down again next year," Huckelberry said.

A public hearing on the budget plan will be held in three weeks.

Although the budget for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, is a 2.6 percent increase, Huckelberry noted it is still almost 15 percent less than pre-recession spending six years ago, when the budget peaked at $1.49 billion.

No service cuts are planned for next fiscal year. The plan is to hold steady on spending, Huckelberry said.

The property-tax increase includes a 24-cent hike in primary property taxes, used to pay operating expenses, to $3.65 per $100 of assessed value - a rate that was last increased in 2011.

The manager also recommends an increase in the library district property-tax rate of 3 cents, to 37.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The higher primary tax would bring in $17.5 million. Huckelberry's plans for spending the extra money, in combination with other county funds, include:

• About $5 million for 100 miles of road repairs.

• About $4 million to restore spending for the Sheriff's Office to pre-recession levels, and keep spending for the County Attorney's Office at current levels despite state funding cuts and federal sequestration.

• About $6.6 million for an across-the-board 3 percent pay raise for county workers. About $4.5 million of that will come from the general fund, with fee revenue covering the rest.

The pay raise would come in two steps, 1 percent in July and 2 percent in January.

"County employees haven't had a raise in five years, and so it's probably time to try and do something," Huckelberry said. "It's not outrageous when you say 3 percent. … I think most taxpayers should see it's a modest increase for the employees."

• Another $5.3 million to give most employees one-time bonuses in July, to make up for raises they didn't get during the recession. They would range from $200 for employees who have worked for the county for at least a year to a maximum of $1,000 for those with five or more years of seniority. About 90 percent of employees would qualify for some amount, with about two-thirds of employees eligible for the maximum.

About $3.4 million of that would come from this year's budget surplus, and the rest would come from fee revenues.

The proposal is encouraging, said John Becerra, Pima County chairman of SEIU Arizona, the workers' union.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a budget hearing on May 21, in advance of adopting the new budget in June and the new tax levies in August.

On StarNet: Read more about local and state government and political news at azstarnet.com/politics

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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