By OSCAR ABEYTA
Annexation of developed areas in the Catalina foothills would likely cost residents there no extra money, but officials say the people added to the city would bring more state money to the city and region.
Homeowners in those areas would likely see increases in some bills but decreases in others that would result in little or no change in their monthly expenses.
A home valued at $200,000 – approximately the median value in those areas, according to the 2000 census – would pay $237 more a year in property taxes under the current levies.
Homeowners would also trade a monthly trash fee of between about $14 and $20 paid to a private company for a $14 monthly trash fee paid to the city. That city service includes recycling and brush and bulky collection twice a year.
At least one trash collection service in the county – Waste Management – does not charge extra for regular brush collection.
Because those residents would fall under Tucson Fire Department’s protection, they would no longer have to subscribe to Rural/Metro Fire Department, saving homeowners from $132 to more than $436 annually in fire protection costs.
Rural/Metro fire protection is optional, though homeowners who do not subscribe must repay the Fire Department for costs associated with fighting fires at their homes.
Business owners would also save on fire protection. Rural/Metro’s charges range from $539 annually for a 1,000-square-foot business to $23,266 for a 100,000-square-foot store.
Insurance rates for homeowners and businesses would not be likely to go down as a result of annexation, said Norm Hubbard, a Farmers Insurance Group agent.
“Whether the city annexes those or not won’t change (their good rating). That’s a good thing, but is it going to impact their insurance rates as they are now? Probably not,” he said.
Chris Kaselemis, administrator of regional and strategic planning for the city, said one tax that could be significant for businesses is the city’s 2 percent sales tax on utility bills.
“That’s usually not significant for homeowners. But if you’re a business that’s a big electricity user, that can be significant,” he said.
Kaselemis stressed that the city has made no formal moves to annex any areas and said the areas in the foothills identified by the city are only part of a long-term vision.
“That’s not an annexation map. That’s kind of a future planning map,” he said. “We haven’t done any planning or analysis there yet.”
He also said the city has no timeline or schedule for annexations in any area of the basin.
Kaselemis said though the cost may even out for residents and businesses, the real boon of annexation comes from the increase in state-shared revenues gained from adding people to the city.
“I’ve never seen an annexation that hasn’t had surplus revenues over expenses,” he said.
According to the 2000 census, 35,346 people reside in the census tracts within the foothills areas identified by the city as priorities for annexation.
According to formulas prepared by the Citizen Finance and Service Review Committee, the net effect would be a gain for the region of $8.3 million in state funds that it would not otherwise be able to get.
If residents of those areas agree to annexation, the city would see an increase of about $10.8 million in state-shared revenue – distributed only to incorporated areas. The county would lose about $2.5 million in highway user revenue funds, which are based on population in unincorporated areas.
Kaselemis also noted that the city cannot force annexation on an area.
“The key thing to remember is it is a democratic process. If you don’t want to be annexed, don’t sign the petition. But if a majority of your neighbors want to be annexed, then you’ll be joining the city,” he said.
He acknowledged that selling annexation to noncity residents in the foothills could be difficult.
“The county has made it pretty comfortable in the foothills, and they may be reluctant to change,” he said.
CALCULATE YOUR COSTS (fill in the blanks)
Item Current If annexed
County property taxes Add city property tax: (assessed value of your home x 0.00118)
Fire protection subscription $0
City utility sales tax $0 Multiply total gas and electric pretax total by 2 percent