A Small Victory for Flagstaff Tax Payers.
by Councilman Jeff Oravits
At Tuesday night’s Council Meeting, the property tax rate was raised by a vote of 4-3, with myself, Mayor Nabours and Councilman Woodson voting against the increase. The motion to raise the property tax rate was made by Councilman Scott Overton. This rate increase will cost the tax payers about $163,000.
On June 19th, Nabours, Overton, Woodson and myself voted to leave the tax rate flat, saving the tax payers about $270,000. But Overton changed his mind and voted for a rate increase along with Councilwomen Evans, Brewster and Barotz.
Mayor Nabours and myself have only been on the Council for just over two weeks. During these two weeks, an intense discussion over the city’s budget, taxes and what the City should and should not be involved in has been discussed at length by Council and many in the community. I’m confident that the past Council would have passed the full two percent tax increase without much, if any, discussion. So while I’m disappointed in the final vote, I am encouraged by all the support against this increase and the discussions that are now underway. The conversation is long overdue.
Council also had a retreat on June 29 and we discussed whether or not Council Members and staff who are involved in the budget process should be allowed to serve on the boards of non profit organizations that receive tax payer funds. For many years, the Flagstaff Council has given nearly a million dollars a year to non profits and outside agencies with some council members and staff serving on the Boards of those organizations. Myself and several other Council members believe this is at a minimum an appearance of a conflict of interest. Taking tax payer money, distributing it to non profits and then redirecting those funds outside the public scrutiny is, at best, bad public policy. The majority of Council agreed and a policy is now being written so that Council and staff will not be allowed to sit on these Boards. Council also needs to have a discussion as to whether or not we should even be donating to these outside agencies. Would we have needed to increase the tax rate had we not given away 1,000,000 of our tax dollars?
It’s been an exciting two weeks. While I was cautiously optomistic that we’d see a tax break of $270,000, I’ll take the $107,000 in savings. As I continue to review the budget and City operations, I am convinced that we can save the tax payers millions of dollars which may ultimately lead to a tax decrease. To all of you out there fighting for change in the way our City operates, keep up the good work. Don’t let up. I know I won’t.
Council Trims Tax Cut, AZ Daily Sun
Council Retreat, AZ Daily Sun
Council Approves Overton Tax Increase, Flag Liberty
Tax cut up for final Council vote, AZ Daily Sun
AZ Daily Sun Tax Interview (video)
County Taxes Flat, Williams News