In a 3-2 vote last month, the Democratic majority of the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the largest property tax cut in more than 30 years. We cut the rate by 39 cents per $100 of net assessed value. And we cut taxes without any reduction in public services.
How did we do it? Through wise, fiscally responsible management and by working hard every day to grow our economy. The county tax base grew by more than 3 percent this past year. That growth is directly tied to some of the major business growth announcements you’ve heard about recently.
Over the past several years, the board majority has charted a targeted pro-business course to help grow local business and attract new investment in specific industries like aerospace, defense, technology and logistics. As a result of these efforts, the region’s largest employer, Raytheon, has greatly expanded its workforce, adding more than 2,000 new high-paying jobs. Another major employer, Caterpillar, relocated an entire corporate division to our region. The company has been leasing a county-owned building while its own new division headquarters are built near Cushing Street and Interstate 10.
Other companies, such as HomeGoods and Amazon, have entered the Southern Arizona market, making hundreds of millions of dollars in capital investments constructing their fulfillment centers. These and other business expansions have all added to the county tax base in measurable ways.
Even as we are cutting the tax rate, our financial position still allows us to move ahead with some great improvements to public amenities.
An important improvement project is currently underway at Mike Jacob Sportspark, where new playgrounds, snack areas, field improvements, parking upgrades and utility infrastructure upgrades will be installed.
An even larger parks project is in design phases at the Kino Sports Complex. There, the county intends to build a new competition sports complex that, in its initial phase, will include 12 multiuse fields, concession facilities and other amenities. This project, when completed, will not only greatly expand a public amenity where the families of Pima County can participate in numerous sports activities, but will create the Southwest’s top competition sporting venue that will attract youth and amateur sporting contests from across the country.
The improved economy and increased tax base also has allowed Pima County to give long-awaited pay increases to sheriff’s deputies and other hardworking civil servants.
For the new fiscal year, eligible employees received a 2.5 percent pay increase while an updated pay scale for sheriff’s deputies and corrections staff increased the minimum pay by as much as 12 percent.
Other items in the budget include improved park amenities, building a new library in Sahuarita and expanding and improving two others, redirecting more than $16 million in road bond funds to arterial street repairs, approved the finishing touches for the historic courthouse — which should have its initial opening this fiscal year as a major tourist and visitor resource and attraction — and continuing to support our reduction in fossil fuels for our fleet and facilities as part of our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint in accordance with the Paris climate agreement.
Strong leadership made this all possible and I am committed to continuing to lead this county into a historic era of growth and prosperity, bringing good jobs to town while still protecting our precious desert ecosystem, and balancing the needs of the community with responsible budgeting and taxation.