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Tue, May 21

Chino Valley tax increase should help with deficit

The Chino Valley Town Council voted on Dec. 11 to raise the town sales tax an additional 1 percent to bring revenue into line with expenses.

However, since voters did not approve an extension of the State of Arizona's temporary 1 percent sales tax, that tax will go away the same day Chino Valley's sales tax amount will increase, making the town's increase a wash, with sales taxes staying the same at 10.35 percent.

The town increase won't begin until June 1, 2013. "With no action, the Town of Chino Valley will run out of funds in 2014-2015," town Finance Director Joe Duffy said. Duffy itemized several areas where the town already has cut expenses, including cutting staff from 125 to 85, a 10 percent pay cut, reduction of hours, reducing department budgets nearly 30 percent, and eliminating any cost-of-living or performance increases since 2007. "The town is not taking this lightly. We have been working extremely hard to come up with both a short-term and long-term solution to fix this deficit."

Faced with the choice of raising the sales tax, initiating a property tax, or a combination of the two, the town recently asked for suggestions from the public on how to tackle the financial crisis.

After scheduling open meetings and sending out a town survey to all Chino Valley registered voters, participation from the public was disappointingly low, Mayor Chris Marley said.

"We didn't have an overwhelming participation in the survey," Marley said. "We made it as available as possible, mailing it to folks' homes, printing it out for people to pick up at Town Hall, and the people that took part in the survey supported the increase in sales tax."

Of the 5,775 surveys sent out, only 1,319 (22.8 percent) were returned. When asked to rank which alternative funding sources the town should consider, 37 percent said their first choice would be an increase in sales tax, 21 percent said a combination sales tax increase and new property tax, and 11 percent answered that a property tax alone would be their first choice. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed left this question blank.

The possibility of the combination sales and property tax will be explored, but to initiate the property tax, it would have to be approved by voters in the May 2013 election. If presented and approved, the earliest the town would see any money from a new property tax would be November 2013.

"It looks like from what we've got (in the survey) that there's no chance a property tax would pass," Council Member Linda Hatch said. "I guess it behooves us to decide whether it's worth the cost to try it or not."

"No one wants their taxes raised," Council Member Lon Turner said. "By the same token, 77 percent of our town didn't even include themselves in the survey. I think that's kind of pitiful. The people that did respond said that they wanted the largest budget items in our town budget to be priority items. That's fine, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.

"The money has to come from someplace."

A full record of this and all public meetings is available online at www.chinoaz.net.

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