Star Valley, in February, will ask voters to approve Proposition 300, which will allow the town to spend all the money it takes in -- even if the total exceeds a 30-year-old spending cap imposed by the Arizona legislature.
Virtually every town and city in the state has already embraced "home rule," which requires jurisdictions to balance their budgets but exempts them from decades-old restrictions originally intended to constrict the growth of government.
Fortunately for Arizona cities, the legislature that imposed the spending caps left a loose latch on an escape hatch -- giving voters the right to set aside the state spending limit in their town.
Star Valley's voters will start receiving mail-in ballots after Feb. 12.
Although approval of the home rule provision is fairly routine in most cities, Star Valley voters will have their first chance to waive the spending caps since the town incorporated two years ago.
"It has a lot of implications for a town," said Mayor Chuck Heron. "It allows a town to do what they want to do with their own money without bureaucratic state interference."
The spending limits and the evolving town budget are both moving targets, but if voters reject Proposition 300 it could have a big impact on the town budget.
The town estimates that the spending limits would prevent it from spending about $2 million over the next four years -- or about $500,00 per year.
The town's budget for the current fiscal year stands at about $4.2 million, including all grants.
Neighboring Payson went through a home rule panic attack in 2006 when some groups pushed voters to reject the routine extension of the home rule provisions that hits the ballot every four years. Payson officials estimated that they would have to cut spending by $11 million to get back down under the state spending cap. However, after several weeks of municipal anxiety, voters approved the extension on a vote of 3,166 to 1,837.
Star Valley officials declined to speculate on the budget impact of a voter rejection of Proposition 300.
But clearly losing the ability to spend roughly $500,000 per year could hit the town of 3,000 hard.
"I can't imagine why anyone would be against it if they understood it," said Heron. "But then if people look at something on a ballot and don't understand it, their inclination is to vote no."
And if voters reject Proposition 300?
"Well then, we'll just put it on the ballot next year," said the mayor.