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Shedding Light on Misinformation About Pima County's
Fiscal Health and Tax Stewardship

Arizonans for a Brighter Future has been making spurious allegations about the economic stability and tax stewardship of Pima County, in an overt attempt to discredit the County. The misinformation falls into three main areas:

Claim1: The County “misplaced” $345 million in transportation funds from gas and license taxes over the past decade.

Reality: The revenues are fully accounted for. The group merely took the total amount of revenues collected by the Transportation Department, then subtracted bond payments and the amount Pima County spent on potholes, and dubbed the rest “unaccounted for.”
That is absurd.

The group is essentially saying the entire operating budget, from staff salaries to signage and light signal maintenance and road design, is “missing.” That information may be found in what’s known as the County’s “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,” which is audited by the Arizona Auditor General.

Claim 2: Pima County’s taxpayers pay an excessive tax rate, compared to Maricopa County.

Reality: Hogwash.
On its face, Pima County’s $3.41 tax rate appears to be nearly three times that of Maricopa County’s $1.24.

Maricopa, however, has a separate jail tax and a separate health care district tax, which the group fails to acknowledge. Pima County pays for adult and juvenile detention costs, as well as our contribution to University of Arizona Healthcare, through our primary rate.

Neither does the comparison take into account the fact that Maricopa County has a higher per capita assessed valuation, or that only 36 percent of their residents live in unincorporated areas, compared to our County’s 64 percent.

Claim 3: With a per capita debt of about $1,016, Pima County is overburdened with debt compared to other jurisdictions and could even be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Reality: Pima County is in sound financial shape, with debt that is not out of the ordinary, given its size and its unincorporated population.
Comparisons with other counties are misleading. Just one example: Nearly half of the County’s debt stems from operating a regional sewer system, which is unique to Pima County.

The City of Tucson’s per capita debt is $2,061 – twice that of Pima County’s. Other local entities, from Marana, to Oro Valley, Sahuarita and South Tucson, all have higher per capita debt.

We also pay off our debt in 15 years or less, compared to other jurisdictions that repay debt for as much as 30 or 40 years.

The group attempts to compare Pima County to Stockton and San Bernardino, which filed for bankruptcy because of unfunded pension fund liabilities within their own city-operated systems. Pima County employees are served through the state retirement system.

It also references Jefferson County, Alabama, which ran up billions in debt to finance its sewer infrastructure. Pima County, meanwhile, is spending $660 million to upgrade our wastewater treatment facilities to meet federal regulations. User and connection fees funding the project will begin to ratchet down by 2015.

Pima County has recently been given Double-A bond ratings that reflect its strong financial health.


Copyright ©2012, Pima County Arizona, all rights reserved. - Revised: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 11:04 AM

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