Taxes are going up again in South Tucson after a slim majority of its seven-member city council approved a half-cent sales tax increase.
City staff stressed it was necessary to shore up the South Tucson’s roughly $5 million budget.
The decision on Monday night raises the total sales tax inside the square-mile city to 11.1%, compared to the city of Tucson’s total sales tax rate of 8.7%.
About 30 people in the audience, either South Tucson residents or business owners, pleaded with the council to reject the increase. The increase is estimated to bring in an additional $123,000 in revenue.
For every $100 spent on taxable items, the new tax increase would add 50 cents to the total price.
Several business owners told the council they worried the strain of additional taxes would make it difficult to stay open and others said it would hurt people living on fixed incomes.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that roughly 46% of South Tucson residents live in poverty.
There was pressure from firefighters to increase staffing levels to meet federal safety standards. While there was support from some council members, the adopted annual budget does not include additional staffing for the department.
In early 2018, budget cuts forced the city to reduce the size of crews on its fire trucks from the national standard of four members to three members. Effectively, this means South Tucson firefighters no longer rush into burning buildings. Instead they wait for additional crews from the Tucson Fire Department to respond.
In a mailer to South Tucson businesses and residents, the city said the “half-cent tax increase is to help sustain city service levels through the economic development planning years up ahead”.
Mayor Bob Teso, Vice Mayor Herman Lopez, and Councilmen Akanni Oyegbola and Robert “Bobby” Romero backed the tax hike on Monday night. Councilmembers Rita Rogers, Paul Diaz and Anita Romero voted against the increase.