Pima County budget is smaller, but taxes still set to increase - The Explorer: News

Pima County budget is smaller, but taxes still set to increase

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Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 4:00 am | Updated: 10:13 am, Wed Jun 4, 2014.

Pima County’s $1.18 billion tentative budget: 6 percent smaller than last year, but increases tax rate to address criminal justice was recently approved.

Pima County responded to the economic downturn over the last several years by reducing property taxes, cutting department budgets by 11 percent and reducing staff by 1,200 employees. It also relied heavily on drawing down its cash reserves to keep taxes artificially low.

The tentative budget approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors is nearly $300 million, or 20 percent, less than the budget seven years ago, but it begins to rebuild County services and infrastructure with the uptick in the economy.

Through prudent fiscal choices, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry noted, the County’s budget produced no major interruptions in services, no major layoffs and no furloughs throughout the recession, and all while keeping tax rates low to keep those revenues in taxpayers’ pockets. The current year’s $370 million tax collection is far lower, for example, than the $418 million the County levied in 2011.

But now is the time, Huckelberry said, to recover stable funding for core services, especially since the County can no longer tap its remaining cash reserves and maintain strong bond ratings.

The Board similarly approved nine separate decision packages to make targeted investments in such areas as Sheriff’s services, indigent defense, road repairs and wildcat dumping enforcement.

The total County tax rate is proposed to increase from $5.13 to $5.76. The proposed average increase in primary property taxes on a hypothetical $100,000 home is approximately $51.

Adoption of the tentative budget effectively set an upper “ceiling” for the budget, which caps the total budget allocation as well as the proposed property tax levy. The budget can decrease, but it will not increase. Final budget adoption is scheduled for June 17. The tax levy is scheduled to be set Aug.18.

To learn more about the budget, please visit http://expnow.com/xj.

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