Paid Political Advertisement
Grassroots citizens create Stand for Prescott a Political Action Committee
for Vote Yes on Prop 443
The accolades for Prescott are numerous and welcomed by the folks who chose to live, learn, work and play in our amazing city. Recently, it was named the No. 1 place in which to live in the Southwest by Sunset magazine, ranked first by the American Lung Association for the cleanest air in the USA, and one of the Happiest & Healthiest Cities in the country by TIME magazine. Yes, Prescott is a fantastic city!
However, for the past several years, the City of Prescott has been challenged with a crippling debt caused by an unfunded liability within the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS). Currently, the debt is $78.4 million and rising exponentially. It’s to the point where the PSPRS payments have placed a severe burden on the city’s general fund, which covers police, fire, library, parks and recreation – those assets which create the quality of life Prescottonians and tourists enjoy. Making these payments has crippled the city’s ability to keep parks operating, special events scheduled and the public library open full-time. For several months, the city “browned out” fire stations due to limited firefighter staff. Community policing has also been forced to scale back. This year, the city is obligated to pay $6.5 million to service this debt. Next year, the projected payment is $7.5 million. When almost 25 percent of the general fund is required to service debt, it does not take long for quality of life assets to begin to diminish.
What to do? The city is tackling the issue with a variety of different approaches. Difficult cuts in staff and services were made, including to the library and all departments in the city. Staff has been reorganized for greater efficiency and effectiveness, which is a positive step; however, continued cuts will diminish the quality of life and public safety. Working closely with the League of Cities & Towns and the Arizona Legislature, the city sought and received legislative relief. Last year, the legislature and the citizens of Arizona passed Prop 124, bringing needed reform to PSPRS; however, most of the reform focuses on fixing the system going forward into the future. No matter what reforms happen going forward, Prescott is responsible by law to pay our unfunded liability. Even the Arizona Legislature cannot erase the current unfunded liability. A debt accrued is a debt that must be paid. As with all debt, the longer the city waits, the more it will cost. Waiting is expensive, costing a minimum of an extra $60 million to the city due to compounding of debt, which will ultimately continue.
There is hope. The Prescott City Council referred a sales tax initiative, Proposition 443, to the August 29th ballot. In addition to electing three council members and a mayor, the citizens of Prescott will be given the opportunity to vote “yes” on 443, approving a ¾ cent sales tax that will be dedicated solely to paying down the unfunded liability. This tax is guaranteed by law to sunset in 10 years and can expire even earlier if the unfunded liability is reduced to no more than $1.5 million. It is expected that the tax will raise approximately $10 million per year. The City Council may also approve additional payments from the general fund in order to pay the debt down sooner, saving money in the long run and expiring the tax before the sunset.
Councilman Steve Sischka sees the sales tax as the fairest way to generate this revenue because, “45 percent of Prescott’s sales tax revenue is generated by tourists, and 16 percent is from non-residents who come to Prescott to shop. A total of 61 percent of our sales tax comes from folks who live outside of Prescott, but enjoy our amenities and use our services.”
Deeply concerned about the devastating effect this crippling debt is having on Prescott’s quality of life, a group of grassroots citizens created Stand for Prescott, a Political Action Committee dedicated to keeping Prescott the best it can be. Co-chairs Sherrie Hanna and Cecelia Jernegan have worked tirelessly with these citizens to get the truth out about the necessity of passing Prop 443. Along with their committee, they’ve united together to ask their fellow citizens to Stand for Prescott and Vote Yes on Prop 443. Supporter, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk stated, “Simply put, we either pass this tax or we cut other city services that make Prescott such an incredible place to live.”
Prescottonians enjoy a very low property tax. Some folks have suggested raising the property tax. However, the State Legislature capped the amount a municipality can raise property tax to 2 percent. Last year that 2 percent for the City of Prescott was $65,000 for the entire city. Our current sales tax is 8.35 percent. The city receives 2 percent of that tax, the state gets 5.6 percent and the remaining ¾ percent goes to Yavapai County. Even with the ¾ cent increase, Prescott will have the lowest sales tax rate in the region at 9.1 percent.
Councilwoman Billie Orr recently stated “Passing 443 will be a pivotal moment in Prescott’s history. It is time to stop kicking this can down the road. We have all invested our lives and money in our homes, businesses and neighborhoods. Let’s protect those investments by voting ‘Yes on 443.’”
Keeping Prescott prosperous and protecting its future is essential ,and passing 443 is critical in making that a reality.
To learn more about Prop 443 visit www.standforprescott.com