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County budget plan would cut property tax rates

Citizen Staff Writer



Pima County supervisors will soon see a $1.37 billion recommended 2009-10 budget that includes a reduction in the proposed combined property tax rate of about 7.8 cents per $100 valuation.

The recommended budget is about $6.2 million less than the one for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The budget recommended by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry will go to supervisors May 19 for tentative adoption.

The fiscal plan includes a decrease in the primary property tax rate from the current $3.39 per $100 valuation to $3.31 – the lowest in 35 years, Huckelberry told supervisors Monday in a budget memorandum.

Overall, it calls for a reduction in the combined property tax rate from the current $4.63 cents per $100 valuation to about $4.55 per $100 valuation.

The financial plan also notes the county will finish the current fiscal year with a balance of about $24.5 million, instead of a projected shortfall of almost $40 million.

About $6.7 million of the fund balance would go to property tax relief.

The county enacted across-the-board departmental budget cuts of 7 percent to 10 percent – except for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department – to avert the projected deficit.

“It went away because we managed it away,” Huckelberry said.

The proposed budget identifies about $493.9 million for the general fund, a decrease from the 2008-09 general fund of about $501.4 million.

The projected lowered property tax rates in the coming fiscal year budget would apply only to Pima County levies.

Property tax bills to be mailed in September contain numerous taxing jurisdictions, such as the city of Tucson, school districts, Pima Community College, and special entities like fire and improvement districts.

Much of the projected budget shortfall for the current fiscal year stemmed from cuts in state revenues, as legislators at the statehouse have battled their own deficit demons.

County budget officials planned for state cuts in health, public safety and transportation revenues, but did not estimate them as high as they turned out to be: about $14.3 million, Huckelberry said.

The Legislature has not approved a state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, leaving officials of counties and cities to guess what revenue cuts may come their way.

Huckelberry said he expects the Legislature to again cut revenues to jurisdictions and that the recommended budget may have to be significantly changed before its adoption to reflect coming state cuts.

Much of the projected $24.5 million end fund balance on June 30 could be used to provide additional financial support to University Physicians Hospital at Kino. UPH officials have asked for $30 million on top of $10 million the county is scheduled to fund the hospital. Huckelberry has recommended that $15 million of the fund balance be set aside for that purpose .

Where much of the money would go in the budget plan:

• Justice and law enforcement would continue to take the biggest share of the general fund budget with a combined recommended allocation of $237.2 million – about 48 percent of the total.

• Another $72.8 million would go to mandated payments to state programs for indigent, acute, long term, and mental health programs.

• Almost $14 million would be earmarked for adult and juvenile detention health care.

• About $64.6 million would go for employee benefits, including $24.5 million in county contributions to various state retirement systems, and another $16.5 million for employee medical, dental, and life insurance premiums.

The budget would set aside about $110.1 million for county debt service – about $9.6 million more than the current fiscal year. That money goes to the county’s general obligation bond debt, transportation bond debt, and repayment on certificates of participation issued in lieu of bonds, Huckelberry said.

• Pima County Library District: $37.4 million: Secondary tax rate: about 26.4 cents per $100 valuation – about 7.5 percent less than the current fiscal year

• Regional Flood Control: About $12.2 million. Tax rate: About 26.3 cents, or about 3 percent lower than the current fiscal year.

Important budget dates

• May 19: Public hearing

• May 19: Tentative adoption

• June 16: Final budget adoption

• Aug. 17: Tax levy adoption

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