A Small Victory for Flagstaff Tax Payers

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.

Related stories:
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

5 thoughts on “A Small Victory for Flagstaff Tax Payers

  1. Is it a donation to a charity with OPM (other people’s money)? Or is the City leveraging the private sector with seed money – and the private sector (ie these charities) is then going out and raising many more dollars to provide a service that the entire community benefits from?

    The dialogue is good, but please let’s not have things presented as black and white, when we live in a world of many bright colors, and not a small amount of grey.

    1. A charity’s marketing and future success is its responsibility. If a charity cannot survive without the city’s assistance then it probably isn’t run competently or needed. Most charities will survive without the city’s money. Only one, which is more of a middle man, has been threatened by this discussion. All others know they will survive regardless.

      1. Since proof is in the pudding, the contentions made to justify well intentioned policy needs to be followed up by unbiased analysis to determine true effectiveness. Is “the City leveraging the private sector with seed money”? Supposition and contention should be followed by analysis so things aren’t so grey.

  2. thank you, keep fighting.

    …and this ” appearance of a conflict of interest”, would be embezlement if we did it.

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