Originally Published: February 5, 2017 6 a.m.
Prescott has an unfunded liability with the state Public Safety Personnel Retirement System and our city council is currently discussing the possibility of a 0.75 percent sales tax to pay it down.
The liability is a fact; years of unrealistic investment performance expectations and an unsustainable permanent benefit increases have left Prescott taxpayers holding the bag on a huge unexpected debt. One way or another, this debt eventually needs to be paid.
That said, we should all take extreme exception to the council proposal to eliminate Prescott’s property tax (and thus enhance the sales tax’s chance for passage). This proposal is unconscionable. It disproportionately shifts responsibility for our city’s shortfall on to the shoulders of those of our neighbors least able to pay.
By its very nature, a sales tax is regressive because it takes a larger percentage of earnings from low-income taxpayers than from high-income taxpayers. This is especially true when the sales tax includes basic necessities such as food.
A sales tax is regressive, but at the same time, to throw the well-to-do of our city the bone of reduced property taxes is disgraceful. Under the proposals (as described in a previous Courier article) the overall tax burden for an average citizen would see a 37.61 percent increase from $460 a year to $633. Meanwhile, the overall annual tax burden for a homeowner (based on a $300,000 home) would increase, with elimination of the property tax, from $551 to $633 and increase of only 14.88 percent!
The proposal to drop the city’s property tax while increasing its sales tax places an undue burden on our poorest citizens. I strongly urge everyone to voice opposition to this proposal.