Marana mail vote to decide budget question

Ballot measure would release town from state-imposed spending limits
2013-04-25T00:00:00Z Marana mail vote to decide budget questionPhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Marana voters are about to engage in another round of mail voting.

The 2013 general election is May 21, but voting will begin soon because ballots will start arriving in the mail this weekend.

The election looks to be low-key compared with the more momentous March 12 primary, in which Marana citizens voted to allow the town to run its own sewer system, ending a dispute between the town and Pima County.

Voters also re-elected Town Council incumbents Patti Comerford, Herb Kai, Carol McGorray and Jon Post. Each of the incumbents earned more than 50 percent of the votes, locking down their seats under state law and preventing them from having to run in the general election.

The stakes in this election may not be quite as high. Just one question is on the ballot, but it's a mouthful:

"Pursuant to the Arizona State Constitution, this proposal establishes an alternative expenditure limitation for the town of Marana for the next four years.

"Annually, the Town Council will determine the amount of the alterative expenditure limitation for the fiscal year after at least one public hearing. This alternative expenditure limitation replaces the state-imposed expenditure limitation."

Boiled down, the question - which is on the concept known as the home rule option - entails the town asking for approval to spend more per year than the $42.7 million cap imposed by the state constitution.

Instead, the town would like to have a total budget capacity of about $95.5 million, using revenues from federal, state and local sources. The money would be spent on things such as capital improvement projects, general government, parks and recreation, roads, utilities and improvement plans.

The town spent $80.8 million in its most recent fiscal year and anticipates spending $81.9 million in the current fiscal year.

Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said it's crucial that voters pass the ballot measure.

If it fails, "that would have a drastic impact on our ability to provide core services," Davidson said. "It would be a gigantic impact. Millions would not be able to be spent."

Davidson compared the restriction to a household prevented from using all its income to pay bills.

"This measure basically gives us the authorization to fully use all the revenue that comes into the town," he said.

Post, the recently re-elected councilman, is worried that some voters who don't read the ballot closely will vote against it because they'll misread it as authorization for unnecessary spending.

"We absolutely have to pass it or we have to cut our budget below levels that we won't be able to operate," he said. "It is a trap, because people rightfully want to vote to reduce spending. But for the town of Marana to get caught in that trap would be a travesty. We try to reduce spending. We're making tough choices."

Post said he hopes voters inform themselves about the ramifications of the election.

"It could be a horrible situation if voters have apathy for the election and are thinking 'Hey, we don't want people spending any more money.' "

HOW TO GET A BALLOT

Voters who lose or don't receive their ballots can vote with replacement ballots at these locations:

• Marana Municipal Complex, 11555 W. Civic Center Drive, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays through May 20 and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. on May 21.

• Pima County Recorder's Office, 115 N. Church Ave., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays through May 20 and 6 a.m.-7 p.m. May 21.

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

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

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