Budget Doesn't Budge

Pima County Will Be Spending $2 Million A Day.

By Chris Limberis

IT LOOKED AND sounded like someone was trimming a budget. But when the dust settled last week at the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting, spending was still at a record $747 million.

That's $2.04 million a day for the 1998-99 fiscal year that started July 1. Pima County taxpayers, who'll get warning of the hit when tax notices go out around Labor Day, aren't going to be amused.

Currents Property taxes, under the budget masterfully forged out of necessity by Democrat Dan Eckstrom, will creep upward: from $5.13 per $100 of assessed valuation to $5.19. That means $6 more for the owner of home that is on the tax rolls for $100,000. It also represents the county's second straight year of nickel-plus one tax increases.

Libraries were the big winners. The Tucson-Pima Library will get a $2 million boost, even though the Library District's tax rate stayed at 22-cents per $100. Higher property valuations created the windfall that Republican Board Chairman Mike Boyd wanted to save.

"I know that cutting the library is like kicking a dog," Boyd said on the morning after. "But the library still would have had an increase (more than 6 percent) had we cut the library taxes by 4 cents."

Boyd, borrowing from cuts offered by Republican Ray Carroll, made the first stab at the budget. His proposal would have cut 8 cents from the county's proposed primary tax rate, used to fund daily operations.

Eckstrom took over as he has done nearly every year when his colleagues lapse into inertia. He moved money, about $6.7 million, to Board control. He also trimmed by 3.5 cents the county's secondary tax rate--used to pay off the huge debt voters approved last year for facilities, parks and open space--down to 96.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The primary cut will be meaningless to homeowners who live in the Tucson Unified School District, the county's largest school system. That's because high primary tax rates from tax-and-spend TUSD and the county create a combined primary tax rate for homeowners that exceeds the state limit of $10 per $100.

Meanwhile, TUSD Board members Brenda Even and Gloria Copeland struggled to cut the $330.9 million budget they failed to block last month. In a surprise meeting last week, Even and Copeland tried to further decimate the already anemic Hispanic Studies Program. Both women are paying attention to budgets and taxes for the first time. Even is trying to unseat Carroll in a special primary election for eastside District 4 on September 8, and Copeland is seeking a second term on the school board, although she had promised voters she would step down after one. TW

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