Mayor Jonathan Rothschild spent a portion of Monday stumping for a proposed half-cent sales tax increase to help fix city roads and buy new equipment for the city’s public-safety departments.
It is an investment, he says, and one the city of Tucson cannot afford without increasing the city’s sales tax by a half-cent — from 2 cents per $1 to 2½ cents — for the next five years, which is the length of time the increased tax would be collected.
Which is how Rothschild prefers to frame the discussion — it is a chance for locals to choose to invest an estimated $250 million in sales-tax revenues to fix roads, build new fire stations, purchase new police cars and other life-saving equipment, including replacing bulletproof vests. The tax hike would bring in $50 million a year for five years.
Current city policy requires officers to buy their own vests, and while they receive a stipend to maintain required equipment, Police Chief Chris Magnus has acknowledged the amount is not enough.
A local nonprofit, the Tucson Police Foundation, also donates new vests to officers on a regular basis, but this also falls short of the number that need to be regularly replaced.
During his speech before the Democrats of Greater Tucson luncheon meeting, Rothschild touted the city’s success in handling the voter-backed $100-million road-bond program known as Proposition 409, telling the audience it is under budget and ahead of schedule.
“It has been very successful,” Rothschild said.
If approved by voters in May, another $100 million would go to repairing roads, but the amount set aside for certain types of roads would change drastically.
The November 2012 bond question set aside $85 million to fix heavily used streets, with only 15 percent expected to go to neighborhood streets.
In terms of the new proposal, about $60 million would be used for major roads, and rest would go to fix residential streets. “Our residential streets are really falling apart,” he said.
Rothschild said the city will maintain a website detailing how the tax revenue is spent. “You’ll know exactly where all the money goes,” Rothschild said.
To date, the Tucson Association of Realtors, Tucson Police Officers Association and the Tucson Fire Fighters Association have endorsed Prop. 101.
There is no formal opposition to the proposal, according to filings with the City Clerk’s Office.
Prop. 101 mail-in ballots will be sent to voters next month.