On Tuesday. a razor thin majority of the Board of Supervisors settled on a compromise property tax rate that will save the average homeowner $12.61 a month while still leaving money in the budget for a handful of few new projects.
Three weeks ago, the three Democrats on the board backed a 7-cent increase in the primary property tax rate above the amount County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry sought in his proposed $1.27 billion budget. The argument at the time, over strong objections from Republicans Ray Carroll and Ally Miller, was that Democrats wanted flexibility in the budget to fund new projects important to their constituents.
But on Tuesday, Democrats Democrats Ramón Valadez, Richard Elías and Sharon Bronson agreed to raise the existing tax rate by a single penny over the rate Huckelberry wanted.
The increase will generate roughly $744,000 in additional revenue, allowing the county to keep the Community Performance and Arts Center in Green Valley open, open a shotgun trap and skeet facility at the Southeast Shooting Range, help move the Ajo Chamber of Commerce into a newer facility, fund a suicide-prevention program at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, move an unused trailer to the Littletown Food Bank and increase in the uniform allowance for sheriff's deputies.
The county did increase the primary property tax rate by a quarter, to $3.66. But that still provides a small break to homeowners because of the estimated 8 percent drop in property valuations in Pima County. The decline in home prices more than offsets the increase in property taxes.
Huckelberry labeled the fiscal year 2014 budget as "a maintenance budget" earlier this year, after he had previously forced departments to cut between 12 and 15 percent over the previous three fiscal years.
Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4346.