Watching the Jan. 4th special council meeting via Zoom was frustrating. Like so many in the past, there was nothing new disclosed. Those watching via Zoom, endured four hours promoting reasons to tax and spend. Then there was the anticipated defense of Home Rule, which will be on the ballot in August. According to the formula created by the State of Arizona, Payson should have a budget of around $15 million annually. But operating under Home Rule, our current budget is over $49 million annually!
Now I am not promoting an end to Home Rule. I believe that would be an extremely radical move: An act of desperation. But I also see merits in its removal. And I can understand why the effort to remove Home Rule is gaining traction.
During the meeting, we heard (paraphrasing here): “Our sales taxes are not the highest in the state.” “Our grocery tax is not the highest in the state.” “Our property taxes are not the highest in Arizona.” All true. But as Facebook would say, “Partly False,” or “Missing Context.” The truth is, our taxes and fees are above average in almost all categories. While some municipalities may have higher sales tax, they may have no grocery tax. Some have higher property tax, but lower sales tax. Our water rates, already high, are going higher. Our taxes and fees are high in most categories. When adding them all together, we are among the highest taxed communities in the state, with little to show for it.
Over the years, we’ve squandered our limited revenues on studies and pipe dreams. (An ice hockey prep school comes to mind.) Alarmingly, it seems we still are! But Troy Smith stated several times during the meeting, perhaps “we should fix what we already have.” He is correct. But will we?
If we had something to show for past expenditures, there probably would be little chance for ending Home Rule in August. But take a drive along our roadways. Walk on the crumbling sidewalks at Green Valley Park. Take a swim in our public pool. Wait, we don’t have one! Watch traffic during summer weekends. And watch your water bill this summer! Then you’ll understand why working families might consider desperate measures at the ballot box, to get someone’s attention at town hall!
It’ll be interesting to see the vote tally this August. I may even vote to end it myself!