By Steve Christy
PAYGO Adopted in Pima County
For the first time in the nearly three years that I’ve loved being your supervisor, and for the first time, as well, since I began writing this column, I actually feel a sense of positivity and hopefulness that Pima County will actually start to just fix our roads significantly. Mrs. Christy, among many others, will be glad to hear this.
The reason for my optimism is that during the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting in early November, the board voted unanimously – 5 to 0, to institute a policy for funding capital improvement projects that will be used primarily to repair roads in unincorporated Pima County over the next 10 years. We adopted a policy known as PAYGO, an acronym for “Pay As You Go,” (What a novel concept!) which is being funded by a percentage of the primary property tax base growth and a portion of the taxes no longer needed to pay off general obligation bonds dating back to 1997.
This utilization of a part of PAYGO that is being derived from the primary property tax base growth will also provide relief to property tax payers, as property tax rates will be reduced as well by applying the remaining portion of the primary tax base growth to reduce the primary property tax rate.
Without getting into the weeds too deeply and to minimize your eyes glazing over, the PAYGO policy will be generating for the county a projected total of $526 million for road repairs by 2030. In other words, funding from the county’s general fund (its “Household Account”), along with standard Highway User Revenue Funds and Vehicle License Taxes, will be used for road repair instead of trying to create a dedicated funding source by imposing a sales tax or issuing general obligation bonds.
I find this concept most interesting because when first elected, I was told constantly by county administration and by the board’s majority that there is not, nor will there ever be, any available General Fund monies for road repair. Now, lo and behold, we have found PAYGO.
Secondly, certain elected officials, as well as community and political activists decried a lack of trust by local taxpayers in Pima County government that any tax or bond generated road repair revenues would ever actually go towards fixing the roads. There was no faith by Pima County residents that Pima County could deliver a genuine road repair program. Now, again, lo and behold, people have trust and confidence in Pima County’s road repair plan, approach, and priorities.
Well, be that as it may, perhaps Pima County Administration and the majority on the board of supervisors are finally getting the message –Just fix the roads!
The board was also presented with another windfall of sorts; a newly discovered $107 million leftover from last year’s budget. (Hmm. I didn’t think the government was in the business of creating a budget surplus.) But again, be that as it may, part of last year’s budget surplus will be added to this year’s road repair amounts, raising the total to $36 million during this fiscal year.
Now, we must ensure that the Pima County Administration and its board of supervisors keep road repair as the top priority. Through your area’s representatives on the Pima County Transportation Advisory Committee, we must keep on fighting and “throwing elbows” to make sure that the Vail and Corona de Tucson communities receive their fair share of the newly made available road repair funding.
Additionally, through your District 4 Office’s efforts, we have achieved another significant victory for our Southeast Region, Vail, and Corona de Tucson communities. We wrote a letter last month to the Executive Director of the Pima Association of Governments and the Regional Transportation Authority requesting that organized community groups like our own Southeast Regional Council be allowed to present on behalf of our communities our own ideas and desires for a well-balanced regional transportation plan for the up-coming RTA re-authorization.
Before our letter was sent to the RTA, only incorporated jurisdictions such as the City of Tucson, the Towns of Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, and Pima County were only going to be allowed to make regional transportation plan requests before the 35-member RTA Citizens Advisory Committee.
We received a response that some have framed as a type of “rebuff” to our request affirming the CAC’s original policy. After further discussion with the RTA CAC’s leadership, the decision was reversed and now organizations such as our Southeast Region Council, the Green Valley Council, and the Tanque Verde Valley Association will speak and present as community representatives on the same level as if they were incorporated municipalities. This is an important step in making sure that areas in our Southeast region are paid attention to and that our opinions and deliberations are heard and given equal weight.
As we enter this holiday season, as your supervisor and from your District 4 team, all of us wish you and your families safe and joyous celebrations during this wonderful time of the year.