The citizens of Oro Valley are in quite an uproar over their library taxes.
Oro Valley remains the only town in Pima County to have its own library; the other 26 libraries are run exclusively by the Pima County Public Library District.
That means that Oro Valley shells out about $700,000 annually to support their library, and Pima County, through the library district, sends about $600,000 in matching funds to the town.
But some townsfolk are concerned, because they're paying about $1.8 million in property taxes this year to the county's library district (and paid about $2.3 million last year). They want Pima County to give them whatever it collects in library taxes and let them do their own thing.
But Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has an alternative suggestion: Oro Valley can turn over their library to the regional system, and he'll take care of running it for them.
The county faced a similar situation a few years back, when the city of Tucson complained that its citizens were being double-taxed, because the city was spending about $10 million on the library, and the county was matching that with about $10 million from the library district.
The Tucson City Council suggested that the county should essentially double the library tax and give all the money to the city to run the libraries. Huckelberry didn't think that was such a hot idea. Instead, he struck a deal for the county to take over the library system from the city, which let the city save about $10 million. The downside: To afford the new system, the library tax pretty much doubled. So instead of being double-taxed, the residents of Tucson paid twice as much in library taxes on their property-tax bill.
As regular library users, we didn't have much of a problem with the hike in our library taxes, which aren't that high to begin with. And as far as we can tell, the county is doing a fine job of running the libraries. As Huckelberry notes in a recent report to the Board of Supervisors, the collection budget has doubled; there are more computers in the libraries; and the hours have expanded on evenings and weekends.
But some folks in Oro Valley have a different take. They're angry that they have to pay so much in library taxes and worry that if they were to turn over control to Pima County, the volunteers would all quit, and Pima County would take all their good books and replace them with ones that nobody wants.
Of perhaps larger concern to Oro Valley library employees: They'd have to go work for Pima County instead of Oro Valley.
Huckelberry points out that Pima County contributed $3.1 million to build the library, and that Oro Valley library patrons benefit from being able to request books from Pima County's collection. They also get to use other resources created by Pima County, including the software program that keeps track of books. And they help support other endeavors that the library participates in, such as literacy classes.
Oro Valley wants the state to pass a law allowing them to opt out of the library district so they can form their own taxing authority and be left to run their own library.
We think that's a lousy idea. If Oro Valley really wants to avoid double-taxation, they should do what the city of Tucson did: Hand over the control to Pima County, and let Oro Valley residents find ways to support their individual branch.
The doomsday clock continues to tick at the state Capitol. As of press time, Gov. Jan Brewer was still weighing whether to sign the budget that Republicans have sent her way.
Brewer has until the end of the week to sign the budget, veto the budget or let it become law without her signature.
The governor vetoed a similar budget in July, saying that it "devastated schools, human services and public safety." But after a special session that took up most of July and August, GOP lawmakers couldn't rustle up the votes to put Brewer's proposed sales-tax hike on the ballot for voters to decide, so they passed what they could and called it quits.
In the meantime, Brewer has started new talks with Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate. From what we hear, though, Democrats are starting to think that Brewer isn't very serious about including their ideas, and is just using them to get a better deal from the Republicans.
The state's financial condition remains lousy, according to the latest report from the Joint Legislature Budget Committee.
In July, the first month of our new fiscal year, tax collections continued to come in below expectations. The state collected an estimated $573 million in taxes, which was $33 million below the forecast for the month, and $65.5 million below July 2008. That means we're off to a bad start.
For the 18th straight month, sales taxes have declined compared to the same month one year ago—and for the ninth straight month, the decline was in double digits, at 18.4 percent. That's largely driven by a continuing drop in construction taxes (off by 37 percent compared to July 2008) and car sales (off by 14 percent). But the bean-counters note that the Cash for Clunkers program might lift car sales in next month's report.
Meanwhile, income taxes dropped 11.5 percent from July 2008 and were $29 million below the forecast for the month.
The good news: Lottery tickets sales were up by $4.1 million over July 2008. Guess people must really be feeling lucky out there.
As regular readers of the Tucson Weekly blog know, Dan Shearer of the Green Valley News and Sun (which, like the Weekly, is part of Wick Communications) recently caught Republican Jesse Kelly, who wants to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2010, in a bit of technological trickery.
Kelly—who is already challenging Giffords to debates, even though (a) the 2010 election is 14 months away, and (b) Kelly has yet to win the nomination to be the actual GOP candidate—sliced and diced some of my comments on Arizona Illustrated to make it appear as though I was saying he had risen to the top of the GOP pack.
My actual point: Kelly has risen to the top of the GOP pack because the heavy hitters remain on the sidelines.
There's no shortage of local Republicans who would like to be in Congress: State Sen. Jonathan Paton, state Rep. Frank Antenori and Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash are just a few of the potential GOP candidates.
The fact that they're not in the race right now says one thing: They don't think Giffords is vulnerable. If she does become vulnerable—and that may have far more to do with the national mood at the start of 2010 than anything that Giffords does—they'll move in and swat Kelly aside.
In the meantime, they're content to let him run up and down the field, because they know he's not scoring any touchdowns. But they're not going to stand aside and let him be the next congressman from the 8th Congressional District.
By the way: After Shearer busted him, Kelly took down the clip.
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