I don’t often do this

Every once in a while you’ll receive an email that is just outstanding.  That happened to me today and I am happily sharing it with all of you.

People can make a difference…  Here are just a few examples:

The man who gave the shoes off his feet to this homeless girl.
This motorist that stopped to help an old man pass safely.
This barber, who offers haircuts for the price of a single hug.
This police officer who handcuffed himself to a woman to make sure she knew she’d have to take him with her.
The many people that helped make this boy’s dream come true.
                This dog owner who mourned by giving.
                 This store employee who gives extra service.
The person who decided to put new tires on a stranger’s car just because he needed it.
The crowd who decided a fan should be able to watch the show, no matter what.
This dry cleaning place that helps the unemployed for free.
These kids helping an injured member of their rival team to score.
The man who played for fun and gave his winnings away.
This man who missed his train helping this older lady with her bags.
This man who gave something to a homeless man no one gives – something to occupy his mind.
And Dan, a man, who twice a week, buys coffee for every patient, nurse and doctor at local cancer centers.
Source:  nedhardy.com
The people at the animal hospital, knowing how hard it is to say goodbye.
This man who gave his umbrella away so this cat could have a dry night.
The paramedics who took an elderly man to the hospital and then came back and finished shoveling his driveway for him.
     Makes you feel good, doesn’t it…


Budget, tax increase before CAC governing board

Posted: Monday, May 18, 2015 10:06 am

Central Arizona College

SIGNAL PEAK — The Central Arizona College Governing Board will consider approval Tuesday of a $105 million budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year including a property tax increase of nearly 85 cents per $100 of net assessed valuation.

The action will follow a public truth and taxation hearing at 6 p.m. at the college’s Signal Peak Campus. 

 Last month, college officials unveiled the budget, which calls for increasing the tax rate to $2.76 — the maximum limit the college can ask for without seeking a voter-approved budget override. The increase would mean an extra $85 per year per $100,000 of home value.

The change, which would be a 44 percent increase from the current year’s $1.91 per $100 net assessed valuation, is expected to generate $56.7 million for the college and represent 14 percent of the distribution of Pinal County property tax revenue.

The college nearly saw all of its state funding eliminated recently, but some was restored by the Legislature at the 11th hour. Since 2006, the state has cut close to 80 percent of the college’s funding — from a high of $10 million in 2006-07 to barely $2 million for the upcoming school year. The cost of tuition has climbed from $55 per credit hour in 2007-08 to $82 per credit hour beginning in the fall. 

Since 2012, CAC has made significant cost-cutting measures including shifting to a four-day work week in an effort to save on utilities and part-time wages; not fully staffing new campuses in San Tan Valley and Maricopa; decreasing employee benefits; and recently deciding to close the pool at the Signal Peak Campus. 

“Our hands are essentially tied,” Chris Wodka, vice president of financial and administrative services for the college, said last month. “We have increased tuition as much as possible. How much more can students take?”

Source:  http://www.trivalleycentral.com/casa_grande_dispatch/area_news/budget-tax-increase-before-cac-governing-board/article_33e3ee22-fd80-11e4-b1c9-dfa0f1840819.html

Pima lawsuit could affect Pinal taxes

By Raquel Hendrickson

May 14, 2015 – 4:07 pm

The Arizona FY 15-16 budget could have a $4.6 million impact to Pinal County’s budget.

Just as an escalation in property tax rates becomes real for jurisdictions in Pinal and Pima counties, Pima is taking the state to court over the very issue causing the higher bills.

“Utterly bizarre” is how lobbyist Michael Racy of Racy Associates described the legislative budget formula and how it came to be passed in the wee hours of the last day of the session. He said the process was full of procedural errors that may have been unconstitutional.

Rep. Vince Leach (R-District 11) said the Legislature was following the Arizona Constitution.

The legislative budget moved $46 million in state liability to the counties. That created a surprise deficit of an estimated $4.6 million for Pinal County and $22 million for Pima, according to the County Supervisors Association.

In response to the budget move, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors voted to increase its property tax rate 20 cents. The Pima County supervisors voted to pursue legal action against the Legislature.

Racy lobbied legislators and the governor’s office for months trying to modify the 1 percent property tax cap liability language that impacted only Pima and Pinal counties along with 27 school districts. The cap alone would make Pinal County liable for an estimated $2.8 million.

State Sen. Steve Smith (R-District 11) said he made two phone calls to the governor’s office to try to temper the rollout of the impact, but the legislation went forward as written.

“For whatever it’s worth, I tried to slow it down,” Smith said.

Next budget year, the cap could impact taxing districts in Cochise and Yavapai counties, “even school districts in Maricopa County,” Racy said.

1 percent property tax cap
The voter-initiated, 1-percent cap has been in place 34 years. The law never spelled out what happened if the limit was surpassed.

“No one thought 1 percent would ever be approached,” Leach said.

Though jurisdictions inched above the cap it was not excessive even into the recession years. But in 2014, Pima County raised its overall tax rate 63 cents only a year after a 25-cent jump, and that got the attention of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Leach said.

“The JLBC was saying, ‘What’s going on here? This line item keeps growing,’” he said. “That’s what got us to where we are today.”

Leach and Racy agreed that part of the cause of districts exceeding the cap has been the low valuations without a corresponding drop in property taxes. But Leach said some jurisdictions all over the state were relying on the state “backfilling” any encroachment of the 1-percent cap. That was estimated to be $40 million in the next fiscal year, Leach said.

Smith said allowing the backfill had been well intentioned but some districts were taking advantage of the safety net.

With the state’s new budget, in any county that exceeds the 1-percent cap plus $1 million, the taxing jurisdictions within the county must pay proportionally.

Racy said that is “really troubling and really problematic because you end up with one jurisdiction paying other jurisdictions’ bills.” He called that unconstitutional. A provision on tax breaks was added in the final day of the budget discussions.

The Legislature delegates the interpretation of the law and its provisions to the Property Tax Oversight Commission, which uses the statewide average to determine which jurisdictions are impacted.

Racy said his work to clarify the budget language through the Legislature seemed to have many on board, but it never moved off the floor. “Almost no one wants to take ownership of the issue,” he said.

Pinal County impact
That piece of the state budget has taxing districts within the county in a quandary and even at odds with one another. Maricopa officials have spoken out against Pinal County’s tax hike to 3.999 and a proposed increase in the Central Arizona College tax rate.

Mayor Christian Price frequently has equated the liability formula to a balloon. “You can squeeze one end, and the other end goes up, but there is no more air in this balloon,” he said.

Smith, who is from Maricopa, said the impact of the cap’s liability shift on taxing jurisdictions in Pinal County was clear as he sat in on the Senate budget hearings. The item only showed up in “the waning days” of the session, he said.

“This was an alarm to me because it affected basically our entire district,” he said. “Whether you agree with the 1 percent or not, the backfill or not, the state pursuing it or not, the decision to do it through Pima and Pinal counties directly affected our District 11.”

CAC has proposed raising its primary tax rate from 1.91 to 2.76. The CAC board meets May 19 for a public hearing on the increase.

Last week, Price, City Manager Gregory Rose, Finance Director Brian Ritschel and Intergovernmental Affairs Director Paul Jepson met with CAC President Doris Helmich to explain what the budget shift means among the taxing entities. Price said he and the city officials were there to protect the interests of Maricopa.

“We all cross reference each other’s revenues based on the taxation,” Price said. “If we raise our taxes, we just pull from CAC and Pinal County and vice versa.”

Helmich said the college board understands a tax rate increase could have consequences on other jurisdictions like Maricopa.

“The thing is, no one knows what it will mean yet, because it’s the Property Tax Oversight Commission that decides how it’s going to get done, and they don’t meet until September,” Helmich said. “We’re all left not knowing how it affects each other.”

During the meeting, Helmich touted the economic development CAC brings to Maricopa.

Estimates tend to shift on the financial impact increased rates from the county and the college would have on Maricopa. Price said the current estimate is $250,000 “on top of the $1.75 million the state is taking from us.”

Smith said he and Senate President Andy Biggs pointed out to the governor’s office the hardship the implementation of the budget formula would have on Pinal and Pima, already with difficult budget decisions. He said they sought to have it phased in instead of being implemented all at once.

“I tried to slow it down or stop it,” Smith said. “It doesn’t it mean I necessarily agree or disagree with it. It’s just tough economic times for a lot of us, especially in our county. Is there another alternative?

“The plea was made, but unfortunately it was not able to change the direction.”

Why a lawsuit?
Helmich hopes the Pima County suit will resolve the issue, at least in an injunction.

Price said it’s too early to tell how successful the lawsuit might be.

“It needs to be brought to the governor’s attention and the Legislature’s attention,” he said. “Unfortunately, it seems the court is the only way to go.”

“You cannot tax one entity and give it to another, which is sort of the premise of this whole thing,” Helmich. “The way that they’re putting entities into categories is very difficult to understand.”

She called the 1-percent cap liability shift a penalty, “because I don’t know what else to call it.”

Leach, on the other hand, calls it “the Constitution.” He also took issue with the use of the term “shift,” but said the real shift is collecting money from districts under the 1-percent cap and giving it to districts over the cap.

Helmich said the college board feels this may be the last time they will be able to get the levy they need. Combined with the secondary rate, CAC’s total rate would be $3.11 for a countywide district. She said that hardly compares to the Maricopa Unified School District rate of $6.60.

Without the possible injunction, Helmich said CAC would lose another $1.5 million.

 The college’s future costs include maintenance on the Signal Peak campus on a pay-as-you-go plan, fully staffing its Maricopa campus and replacing a 20-year-old computer system. The latter is more than $3 million, and the administration wants to spread that over two fiscal years.

Price said Maricopa has worked to absorb its pending budget reductions by going without some programs. “The question is, how long can you do that? Sooner or later, you have to pay the piper.”

Pima County is seeking other entities to join in its lawsuit, which is being handled pro bono. Neither CAC nor Maricopa has considered that yet. Price said City Hall would have to evaluate any political fallout that move could have.

Source:  http://www.inmaricopa.com/Article/2015/05/14/pima-lawsuit-could-affect-pinal-taxes

Fire District for upper third of San Tan Valley rejected on 4-1 vote by Pinal County Supervisors

Yet another attempt to create a municipal fire district within San Tan Valley was rejected on a 4-1 vote by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors during its May 6 meeting.

Although board members called the impact statement offered by the San Tan North Medical and Fire District (STNMFD) to be well researched and had a thoughtful plan for creating the firefighting service in the northern third of unincorporated San Tan Valley, they questioned the proposed start-up costs as being inadequate. As a result, only Supervisor Stephen Q. Miller voted to accept the statement.

STNMFD organizers can submit a revamped impact statement in six months, if they choose.

As proposed, the STNMFD would have covered an area of San Tan Valley bordered by Germann Road on the north, Schnepf Road and Sierra Vista on the east, Combs Road on the south, and Meridian Drive on the west.

In his presentation to the Board, Ted Stevens, the San Tan Valley realtor heading the STNMFD organizing committee, noted that the district would provide fire suppression, emergency medical services, search and rescue, and vehicle extrication from vehicle accidents. It also would provide rescues for swift water, mountain, trenching and excavation accidents. And STNMFD would work with existing private ambulance services (both air and ground) to provide reasonable response times to major medical emergencies.

A fire station would be built in the center of the district, cutting response times to fires and other emergencies to under eight minutes, Stevens emphasized. The station would be manned at all times by a captain, and engineer and two firefighters with paramedic training. STNMFD would employ 12 fire personnel working in shifts.

Once in operation, the district would work with local homeowners associations on fire prevention programs. And the district would have a Seniors Program providing blood pressure and welfare checks for residents, Stevens said.

The district would operate on an annual budget of $2,872, 630, which will be paid for with up to $400,000 from the Arizona Fire District Assistance Tax, which San Tan Valley residents pay but currently don’t benefit from, and from a property tax levy of $2.50 per $100 of assessed limited property value. And they district would be accountable to homeowners in its territory by holding monthly citizens’ meetings, Stevens concluded.

During the public hearing following Stevens’ presentation, opinions on the creation of STNMFD were mixed.

Daniel Kochuk of the Castlegate subdivision spoke in favor while chastising the Board for rejecting an earlier proposal for the San Tan Valley Fire and Medical District that would have covered all of San Tan Valley.

“Fire protection is as important as police protection. Residents shouldn’t have to subscribe to a private fire service to get fire protection and having subscribers subsidizing those who choose not to subscribe,” he said.

But a man who didn’t give his name grumbled that he moved to Pinal County in 1996 to get away from the high taxes in Maricopa County and didn’t like the idea of paying $300 more in property taxes for a fire department. He said if your house burns down, your insurance will pay for the loss.

The man was corrected by Supervisor Todd House, who noted that if you aren’t a subscriber to the private Rural/Metro service in San Tan Valley, one could be billed $20,000 if they put out even a minor grease fire in the kitchen. And insurance won’t pay for that, House said, citing his experience with the Superstition Fire District near Apache Junction.

The most damning testimony came from Court Rich of the Rose Law Firm, who argued that based on the impact statement, STNMFD would not be able to take over fire protection services in the area on Day One after organizers secure petition signatures from 50%-plus-one of homeowners. He noted that the district wouldn’t get any tax revenues before mid-2016 if they didn’t become an eligible taxing body able to make a request before the end of the year. He added that organizers had no contingencies to cover expenses until tax revenues become available, and that estimates for first year expenses were on the low side; some as little as one-third of actual costs.

This prompted additional questions from Board members.

Stevens and his fellow organizing committee member Gary Duncan argued that under their plans they would have all the necessary signatures to submit to the Board by early November, thus making the tax application deadlines. And until the tax revenues start coming in, they could take out tax anticipation loans from banks.

Duncan added that the committee had been in contact with Rural/Metro and with surrounding fire districts for coverage until the district’s fire station was ready and had the necessary equipment. Like other start-up fire districts, initial fire engines would be less expensive used vehicles until better equipment could be purchased at more reasonable prices through participation in a bulk purchase program with other districts.

Another barrier was House Bill 2110 enacted this spring and going into effect on July 3. The new law limits tax increases by all government bodies to 5% a year. As the STNMFD impact statement calls for the proposed district’s budget to rise 64% in the next five years, the district could end up operating in the red.

Stevens countered that the extra funding could be made by increases in homes in the district territory. He noted that new subdivisions were now being built in this territory.

Board members ultimately decided that budget plans in the statement had too many variables.

“If you don’t having the necessary finances, people in the district would end up in jeopardy when you take over fire services on Day One,” Supervisor Pete Rios scolded. He proposed that the STNMFD impact statement be disapproved.

All Board members voted disapproval except Miller, who argued that it should be the people living in the district who should have the ultimate say in whether the fire district be created.

Stevens expressed disappointment that the STNMFD impact statement wasn’t accepted but added that the committee felt blindsided by the enactment of HB 2110 in late March.

Source:  http://sevledger.com/pages/fire-district-for-upper-third-of-san-tan-valley-rejected-on-4-1-vote-by-pinal-county-supervisors/

AZ Republic wants to mute your voice, muzzle your vote

It wasn’t that long ago, the daily newspaper was rife with editorials, columns, contrivances and a variety of other machinations passing themselves off as reports, pushing what it termed the “non-partisan,” or “Top Two” Primary. In a nutshell, the scheme does away with party aligned voters selecting their own candidates to run in the General Election. The ideal scenario of the leftists at the newspaper would have the “Top Two” both Democrats, restricting voter’s choices to liberal or liberal. Swell for the leftists at the newspaper, bad for the rest of us.

There have been other such schemes over the years. The warm and fuzzy sounding “Home Rule,” included provisions to appoint all county “line officers” as they were dismissively called, including the County Attorney, Sheriff, Treasurer and School Superintendent. Though its intent was to eliminate citizen’s ability to vote for these and other county officials —-  turning the immense appointment power over to the Board of Supervisors —- it was promoted as merely a “housekeeping” budgetary provision. Arizona voters caught on quickly as did the elected office holders, both successfully pushing back against this ruse.

Now the slippery tricksters at the Fish Wrap have taken the editorial route again to advocate for appointing the five members of the Arizona Corporation Commission, charged among numerous other tasks, with regulating utility rates. Ambiguous language is its tool in trade and denials of hazy allegations are flippantly dismissed. Regardless of the specious reasons the newspaper puts forward for taking away the vote of the people —- this time —- the actual reason is purely political. Commissioners Tom Forese, Doug Little, Bob Stump, Bob Burns and Chairman Susan Bitter Smith have one thing in common that rankles the folks at the Arizona Republic: They are all Republican.  So are the Maricopa County elected officeholders with the exception of a single County Supervisor.

In July 2012 columnist Robert Robb candidly exposed theRepublic’s angst regarding the Top Two. His words apply to the latest crusade to remove our vote:

“A little honesty and sobriety is in order about the top-two primary system initiative that apparently will be on the November ballot. The purpose of the initiative should be stated plainly and bluntly: It is to reduce the influence of conservative Republicans in Arizona. The rhetoric used to sell it will be more lofty. There will be a pretense of deploring extremism on both sides of the political divide. But what’s driving the initiative isn’t a concern that the Democrats who get elected in Arizona are too liberal. It’s a call-to-arms reaction to a bone-deep belief that the Republicans who run Arizona are too conservative.”

No wonder the liberals get testy.

Source:  https://seeingredaz.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/az-republic-wants-to-mute-your-voice-muzzle-your-vote/

Pinal property taxes to increase

Members of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors say they wouldn’t raise property taxes unless it was a last resort. But with some board members feeling as if Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature have them over a barrel, a vote passed on Wednesday for a tax increase to be implemented next fiscal year.

In a 3-2 vote, the board approved giving County Manager Greg Stanley direction to prepare the fiscal year 2016 budget based on a 20-cent increase in the primary property tax rate — from $3.79 per $100 of net assessed value to $3.99. The 20-cent increase is expected to generate an additional $4 million of revenue for the county in the year beginning July 1.

Chairwoman Cheryl Chase of San Tan Valley, Vice Chairman Pete Rios of Dudleyville and Supervisor Todd House of Apache Junction voted in favor of the increase, while Supervisors Steve Miller of Casa Grande and Anthony Smith of Maricopa voted in opposition.

“I’m a no-tax guy, but I’m also a realist,” said House, who along with three other Republicans who joined the board in January 2013 promised not to raise property taxes. “We had no idea the state (Legislature) was going to cut another $4.6 million from us.”

Stanley said the new state budget, which imposed $4.6 million in new cuts from Pinal County, also includes about $2.3 million in ongoing cuts.

Some supervisors and Stanley have argued that Ducey is balancing the state budget on the backs of Arizona’s 15 counties.

“No one on this board wants to increase the tax levy,” said Rios, the board’s lone Democrat, adding that the $4 million generated in revenue from the tax increase won’t even cover the $4.6 million in new cuts by the state.

Rios said Ducey and the Legislature claim they balanced the state budget without raising taxes, when in reality deep cuts all but forced the hand of the counties to raise taxes in order to provide a similar level of services as what residents have been receiving.

Rios said he was concerned about the amount of services that would have to be cut if a tax increase wasn’t factored into the equation. He said he wasn’t comfortable with going anywhere near 5 percent in the county’s reserve fund, which would have occurred if the county stayed with a $3.79 tax rate and imposed a 5 percent across-the-board budget cut to all departments.

Instead, the board proposed a 4 percent budget reduction in addition to the tax increase. That 4 percent cut will come on the heels of a 2 percent cut that was approved by the board in February.

Sheriff Paul Babeu, as well as other elected officials and department heads, said they could handle an additional 4 percent budget cut but were worried about providing services if cuts exceeded 4 percent.

Rios also criticized Ducey for making comments that he wants to run government like a business.

“I don’t have any problem with running government like a business where it applies,” Rios said. “But I think people sometimes forget that government is not doing what they’re doing to make a profit, (whereas) business is. Government is in place to provide services to its constituents.”

Miller and Smith stood firm on their original stances of not raising taxes.

“I believe that raising the primary property tax rate sends us in the wrong direction,” Smith said.

The primary property tax rate has long been an issue in Pinal County. Back in fiscal year 2012, when the rate was $3.99, Pinal County had the second-highest rate in Arizona. The current number, $3.79, puts Pinal at the third-highest rate in the state.

Miller and Smith have argued that the rate needs to be close to the state average or the median of the 15 counties in Arizona in order for Pinal County to be more competitive in economic development. The state average primary property tax rate is $2.17.

As for combined tax rate, which adds primary and secondary property taxes together, Pinal County is the fourth highest at $4.06.

Adding to the financial heartburn is the fact that many home values have dropped across Pinal County.

Miller said another reason why raising taxes is the “wrong move” is because people are bringing home smaller paychecks.

“The income has dropped not just in Pinal County but the United States of America,” he said. “I think we send the wrong message to the voters and the citizens when we raise the taxes at this point.”

Miller wasn’t concerned about the county not being able to provide services without a tax increase. He said not a single constituent had come to him with complaints about a lack of services.

Chase said she wasn’t happy about raising taxes but felt it was necessary considering the county’s financial woes.

“Nobody’s happy with some of our options, but (the voters) brought us here to make tough decisions, and we’re going to have to make them,” she said.

The board also gave Stanley direction to potentially implement fund sweeps up to $3.1 million from county departments. Stanley said only certain funds are eligible for the sweeps, with 80 percent of those potential funds coming from departments under the board’s control, while the other 20 percent could come from the Attorney’s Office, Clerk of the Superior Court Office, Superior Court and the Treasurer’s Office.

Source:  http://www.trivalleycentral.com/arizona_city_independent/news/pinal-property-taxes-to-increase/article_8d2c77f4-e856-11e4-aeb5-b3b360cc9e06.html