Editorial: Yes to Prop 443, a fair, smart way to be responsible stewards

The Daily Courier editorial board endorses a yes vote on Proposition 443, which temporarily raises the City of Prescott's sales tax to pay down the estimated $78 million it owes the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System. (File photo)

The Daily Courier editorial board endorses a yes vote on Proposition 443, which temporarily raises the City of Prescott's sales tax to pay down the estimated $78 million it owes the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System. (File photo)

As a reader wisely told us this past week, “Never choose a candidate by a sign; choose them on their character, intelligence, and listen to their opinions on important issues.”

This is true for candidates, and also when choosing a position on Proposition 443.

This ballot measure from the City of Prescott will ask voters on Aug. 29 for a 0.75-percent sales tax increase (for 10 years, or until the city’s “unfunded liability” with the PSPRS reaches $1.5 million) to help pay down the more than $78 million in debt it has with the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System.

The Daily Courier Editorial Board is unanimously in favor of this measure.

In the past few years, since the unfunded liability surfaced, opinions on both sides of the issue have emerged – many being unsubstantiated and unreasonable, even resorting to fear tactics, mostly from the anti-side.

One example of a false fear tactic is the claim that the city did not pay its bill to the state for years, and fell behind. In fact, it was the state PSPRS board that gambled in land speculation prior to the Great Recession and lost on its investments when markets tanked – taking the pension fund from 120-or-more percent funded to less than 50 percent overall. Thus, each entity (city, county or district) has a debt responsibility to keep its portion of this constitutionally-protected system solvent.

Conflicting information has also dominated the debate without solutions being offered. The anti-statement goes like this: “It’s bad for Prescott, it is the state’s problem, and it’s not my job to say what the answer is.”

That doesn’t fly with us.

In 2015, the city’s first attempt to start paying down its debt – a 0.55-percent sales tax proposal – was defeated by voters 56-to-44 percent. At the time, city officials stated if the measure did not pass, they would have to cut the budget and the debt would continue to grow. They did, by eliminating positions and even closing the library on Sundays, for example, and their liability did increase.

Some say they did not cut deep enough. Yet, as we near early voting in this primary election – ballots go out in the mail in early August – the axe is poised again. This time residents and visitors will certainly feel the effects, if the effort is not approved.

As for the state’s skin in this, yes it is a state pension program; it is in the Arizona constitution. We have seen some progress in reform, yet it is not enough. And, we are not confident the Arizona Legislative Ad Hoc Committee on PSPRS or the legislature as a whole will be successful, nor should the city wait the predicted two to three years for its members to examine the situation.

State lawmakers cannot even fix education funding, and they’re certain they will turn this around? We don’t believe it, and we’re not willing to play a part in another state gamble.

Prescott’s approach is smart: “We pay our debts, and must work to fix this.”

We have never seen a tax increase we like; however, the sales tax would be paid for by everyone, including visitors.

That is a fair tax. Say yes on Prop 443.



See opposing view: Column: Fix the PSPRS problem before taxing residents

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