Because there has been so much discussion regarding the County Board of Supervisors' proposed tax increase and their stated promise to use the tax to build and upgrade facilities, I feel it is time I address this issue. I am doing it in three parts 1) Relationship with the County, 2) The Proposed Tax Increase and 3) Facilities and Location. This article addresses the tax increase.
Proposed Tax Increase ... The Supervisors are proposing a half percent increase in the County sales tax. While a half penny does not sound like much, it raises the County tax to 1.5 percent, a 50 percent increase, making Gila County second highest in the state, only one tenth penny behind Yuma. The comment was made that this is only pocket change. While that may be true, it is taxpayers' dollars and every single taxpayer dollar should be treated with respect.
To put that in perspective, the Payson tax would be 9.22 percent as compared to Mesa at only 8.05 percent and Scottsdale at 7.95 percent. That's a 14 percent and nearly a 16 percent difference respectively. Payson already is losing retail business to the Valley and surrounding counties because of the difference in the sales tax ... why would we want to add to the problem.
Government and Taxes ... In all my years in government, I have learned that government does not need more taxes; fiscal restraint Yes, more taxes no. We must insist that our county government simply live within its means.
To fund new jails and courts, they need to determine the priority for these projects compared to other budgeted items and manage the budget accordingly. Of course public safety is the number one priority. However, since alternative ways to fund the needs exist, the Supervisors' proposed new taxes are simply not acceptable!
All options need to be examined. For example, the county has $10 Million in reserve that could be used to fund the Payson jail, which would immediately solve the overcrowding at both facilities. Also, trimming the budget should not require cutting into muscle or moving all the criminal justice facilities to Globe... that just is not going to happen.
Budget Review ... The County's annual budget is approximately $60 million. A modest 5 percent reduction would result in $3 million per year in savings. Combined with the approximate $10 million which the County has in reserve, the $3 million annual savings would result in paying for the entire $30 million project in less than seven years ... without raising our taxes!
Long Range ... Gila County was aware of this problem for at least 10 years. Failure to have a long-range plan put us in this mess. It is my hope that our supervisors will insist that there be a long-range capital improvement plan. Without such a plan, we will find ourselves in the same situation down the road.
It is time for the county government to become fiscally responsible!
Next, I will discuss the Payson site selection.