Apache Junction city officials propose sales tax increase for road improvements

City officials want to know if residents would support an increase in the city sales tax to pay for improvements to its main thoroughfare, which they say is “dire need” of help.

During their Aug. 18 work session, members of the Apache Junction City Council discussed the city’s efforts to educate residents about a proposed improvement project for Apache Trail between Meridian and Idaho roads.

That stretch of the thoroughfare, according to a fact sheet being distributed by the city to residents, is in “dire” condition.

The city estimates the cost to improve the roadway is $3 million, or $15 per square foot, Assistant City Manager Bryant Powell told council members during the Aug. 18 work session.

If the city decides to postpone the improvements, the cost could increase by 2020 to $12 million, or $55 per square foot, Mr. Bryant said.

Historically, road improvements in Apache Junction are funded by Highway User Revenue Funds, according to the city’s Apache Junction Public Information Plan created in June.

HURF comes from the gas tax collected by the state of Arizona.

Since 2007, HURF funding has decreased in Apache Junction from $7.3 million to $3.8 million, according to the fact sheet.

One option to fund the improvements is to increase by .2 percent the city’s sales tax, which is now 2.2 percent, according to the plan. It states, in part, “The Apache Junction City Council will consider increasing the city sales tax. Approximately $500,000 would be generated per year with a .1 percent increase and a .2 percent increase would generate approximately $1,000,000 per year. If council increases the sales tax, all funds generated from the increase will go directly to pay for roadway improvements.”

Apache Junction has an 8.9 percent city sales tax, according to a press release from the city. Of that, the city receives 2.2 percent, the state receives 5.6 percent and Pinal County receives 1.1 percent, according to the release.

If an individual spends $100 in Apache Junction, the state receives $5.60, the county receives $1.10 and Apaache Junction receives $2.20, according to the release.

A .2 percent city sales tax increase would result in Apache Junction receiving $2.40 — an extra 20 cents — for each $100 purchase, according to the release.

The increase does not have to go to a public vote, City Attorney Joel Stern said to the council, according to the video.

Mr. Stern told council members they could take the matter to the voters but doing so could delay the project.

A delay could increase the project cost and incur the cost of a special election; the latter costs about $30,000, Mr. Stern said.

The plan and a fact sheet about the proposed road improvement project can be viewed online.

The plan calls for elected officials and staff members to meet with businesses and residents along the Trail as well as neighborhood leaders and associations, social and civic organizations, local school and fire districts, churches and city board and commission members to share information about the proposed city sales tax increase and road improvements and then gather input to report to the council.

So far, the city has reached about 2,750 people through its presentations, e-mails, social media, events and conversations, Mr. Bryant told the council, according to a video of the meeting.

The video of the work session can be viewed online.

Presentations will vary depending on the desires of the audience and the electronic facilities available at the meeting site, Mr. Powell said during a phone interview Aug. 21. All attendees receive a fact sheet that the presenter explains, he said.

Those with access to the Internet can also view a video produced by the city that explains the need to improve the roadway, Mr. Bryant said.

He also can e-mail a link to the video to interested parties, he said.

“The general feedback is to fix the Apache Trail,” Mr. Bryant said during his work session presentation.

He said people also are asking which roads would be fixed after the Trail.

Topping that list, he told the council, is Delaware Drive, which requires paving and improved drainage between Broadway Avenue to Southern Avenue.

Next are paving the following roads: Southern Avenue between Apache and Winchester, Baseline Avenue from Meridian to Winchester and Broadway Avenue from Old West Highway to Tomahawk, he said during his work session presentation.

Construction could begin as early as summer 2015, according to the information plan.

Council members asked Mr. Bryant to prepare additional information for review at the council’s Sept. 2, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, 300 E. Superstition Blvd.

Vice Mayor Robin Barker requested the discussion also include information about an existing .2 percent sales tax that will sunset — or go away — in October 2016, according to the meeting video.

The tax was implemented to fund soft capital such as city vehicles and facility maintenance, Mr. Bryant said on the meeting video.

Mr. Powell recommended council members continue their discussion at their Sept. 15 work session and hold a public hearing and possible vote at their Oct. 7 regular meeting, he said during the Aug. 18 work session.

Both meetings start at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.

The meeting dates may change at the council’s discretion, Mr. Powell said during his interview.

For more information, call 480-474-5080.

Source:  http://arizona.newszap.com/eastvalley/134522-114/apache-junction-city-officials-propose-sales-tax-increase-for-road-improvements

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