Originally Published: October 14, 2017 5:59 a.m.
Prescott has one of the lowest property taxes in the state and is limited by state law to increase the tax no more than 2 percent in any fiscal year. In prior years, the council has voted not to increase the tax, and as in the current year, new construction levies produced general fund income equal or greater than a 2 percent levy would have produced.
Unfortunately, the Arizona Legislature chooses to use the regressive sales tax to support most state and community budgets, causing greater burden as portion of disposable income on lower income residents.
In Fiscal Year 2015, the council approved the 2 percent levy, but in FY16 it did not. In FY17, council members voted to increase the tax by 4 percent to acquire income allowed for both fiscal years.
As a matter of fiscal responsibility the council opts not to increase the tax in some years because the cost of holding Truth in Taxation hearings, and advertising the levy costs more than the income that could be produced.
Voters should study their tax bills sent twice a year by the county under state law, allowing the taxpayer to make semi-annual payments. They will discover that the county, school districts, flood and fire districts and other special districts, again, permitted by state and federal laws, levy the major proportion of the taxes on property in Yavapai County.
The Founders of this Nation pledged their property to be taxed to support the provisions of the Constitution, signed Sept. 17, 1787. They assumed responsibility for a nation of equals, and believed that persons of means were responsible for others’ welfare. We have moved too far away from those egalitarian principles, basing our economy too much on general fund income to operate government on the sales of goods and property, whereby the less fortunate pay a larger proportion of income than the more affluent.
The state does not tax food sales, but Prescott still levies that disproportional burden on Prescott residents. However, we must assume obligations of operation of this charter city, independent of the state legislature as much as possible and continue to cover our obligations to residents and visitors alike.
The work over the years of volunteers to create historic preservation and open space ordinances by initiative, has produced the major source of income through sales tax from visitors for all of Northern Arizona. Ecotourism, evidence in Prescott through our trails and parks, is now a worldwide attraction. Formerly Prescott’s unique position in preserving our heritage was the main draw.
So sales tax it is, unless the state changes the constitution to allow a larger portion of income for the Prescott’s general fund from the levying of the fairest tax, on property, the historic source of communities’ services support for law enforcement, fire protection, and cultural assets.
We Americans are social beings and in current generations choose to live in cities and towns as opposed to earlier times when we lived in agrarian settings, more widely dispersed and less dependent on each other and our elected and appointed officials.
Unless we change the system and our patterns of governance, let us resolve to protect our major assets of history, beauty and recreational assets, and I encourage each resident of Prescott to become involved in civil discourse leading to civic action as good citizens of the place in which we choose to reside and raise our families.