/ Modified jun 18, 2014 1:43 p.m.

Pima County Approves $1.2B Budget on Party Line Vote

Fiscal year begins in July, property tax rate goes up, spending reduced.

This story has been updated and corrected as of 1:45 p.m. 6/18/14.


Pima County departments that want to spend more money in the next fiscal year will have to justify their spending requests before they get the money.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors set that stipulation Tuesday during a three-hour meeting on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Overall, the county will spend a little less next fiscal year, but because of reduced property values, property owners will see a 16 percent increase in the tax rate.

The county supervisors approved the $1.2 billion budget in a party-line 3-2 vote today, including a primary tax rate of $4.28. The primary property tax funds many standard Pima County services, such as courts and the sheriff's and parks departments.

Democratic Supervisors Sharon Bronson, Ramón Valadez and Richard Elías approved the budget, and Republican Supervisors Ally Miller and Ray Carroll opposed it.

Carroll has long criticized the county's indebtedness, and Miller said overall county spending is too high.

The supervisors listened to hours of comments from the public, including business owners. They criticized a plan to spend almost $2 million on a down payment for new soccer fields near Interstate 10 and Kino Parkway.

Supporters, including the supervisors who voted for the budget, said the proposed new soccer complex will boost the economy with tournaments that will bring in tourists and participants.

Opponents, including many public speakers, said the investment comes at a time when the county needs to prioritize other things, like road maintenance and reducing property taxes.

"What we have to remember is we're doing this on a hope and a dream," Miller said. She said the county is relying on voters to approve more debt at a future bond election to pay for construction of the fields, and if voters turn it down, the down payment for the property will not provide a public benefit.

Valadez said the county has made cuts in past years during the unprecedented drop in property values, which led to a drop in property tax revenues.

"I don’t think any one of us likes the idea of raising rates," he said of property taxes.

But the county does not have much of a choice, he said.

"...the truth is, in order to move forward we have services we have to provide," Valadez said.

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