Would you pay more in city sales tax if it meant the city could afford to replace aging fire trucks, or if it could afford to not cut the parks and rec budget?
The city will poll voters several weeks from now to find out whether voters might support a half-cent sales tax increase.
The Tucson City Council approved the poll Tuesday.
The poll would cost $10,000-$20,000, said Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. Local leadership groups may help pay for it, he said.
The council spent time Tuesday discussing the options for improving the revenue side of the city budget. A half-cent sales tax increase would bring in about $50 million a year but must be approved by voters.
The city budget will become “unmanageable” in the next few years, said Council Member Paul Cunningham.
If the city does nothing, general-fund deficits are projected to grow to $50 million by FY18.
The council should be “bold enough” to face the problem and take action to put a sales tax increase on the ballot, Cunningham said.
A half-cent sales tax increase would bring the city rate to 2.5 percent. Oro Valley and Marana recently increased their rates to that mark.
“That’s kind of become the new standard,” Rothschild said.
Without a tax increase, the city would have to cut services, said Council Member Regina Romero.
Voters have to decide what city services will become, she said. “Do they want a struggling city,” she asked, or would they choose “a thriving city?”
A poll would show whether Tucsonans are willing to pay more, and also what they would prefer to pay for, such as public safety, transit, roads or parks, she said.
Council Member Richard Fimbres said the extra tax revenue should benefit one specific service, such as parks. He said voters approved Proposition 409, a $100 million road bonds project, in 2012 because it met a specific need.
The poll results, plus input from citizen committees, would help shape ballot questions.
“For us to run an election is going to cost us some good money, so we should at least know that we’ve got a good chance to win,” Rothschild said.
A tax hike would have to be approved by voters, but the timing of the election was not determined in Tuesday’s meeting.
In other action, the council approved increasing the allowable size of off-site cultivation sites that grow marijuana for medical marijuana dispensaries to 4,000 square feet, up from 3,000 square feet, and allow outdoor growing with certain requirements.
With fewer restrictions in the Phoenix area, many growers set up their farms there instead of here, the Arizona Daily Star reported in 2010.