UPDATE: On May 16, 2017, City of Tucson voters overwhelmingly approved a new, five-year, half-cent sales tax to fund public safety capital needs and road repairs. The tax goes into effect on July 1, 2017.
The City of Tucson is asking voters to consider a half-cent sales tax increase over the next five years. The funds collected over the five-year period would be split with $100 million being used to restore, repair, and resurface City streets, and $150 million would be spent on vehicles, equipment, and facilities for the Tucson Police Department and Tucson Fire Department. A half-cent sales tax increase is estimated to cost each household member in the City of Tucson approximately $3 per month over the course of the five-year period.
ROAD REPAIR PLAN
Of the $250 million projected to be collected under Proposition 101, $100 million would be used for road repair.
Approximately 60 percent of the half-cent sales tax funds would be used for major roads, and the remainder would be allocated to repair of residential streets.
A map (pdf) identifies the major streets planned to be resurfaced.
Residential roads for repairs would be selected by a citizens oversight commission, which also would oversee the road work for the half-cent sales tax program.
Streets were selected for repair based on a comprehensive engineering analysis of the condition of city streets.
PUBLIC SAFETY CAPITAL NEEDS PLAN
Of the $250 million projected to be collected under Proposition 101, $150 million would be used for vehicles, equipment, and facilities for the Tucson Fire and Police departments.
Nearly $55 million is scheduled for public safety vehicles, including police patrol cars, fire trucks, ambulances, police motorcycles, and other specialized and nonspecialized public safety vehicles.
A new south side police substation, police academy training track, a new southeast side police annex, and five fire station rebuilds are included investments in the facilities category.
Firefighter protective gear, police-worn body cameras, laptops, ballistic vests, and paramedic cardiac monitors are part of the more than $20 million pledged for public safety equipment.
A complete list of public safety expenditures (pdf) broken down by category has been included in this plan and cannot be altered.
Prop 101 can only be forwarded with voter approval
Funds can only be spent on items identified in the Prop 101 plan
Citizens’ Public Safety Oversight Commission would oversee Prop 101 public safety expenditures
Current citizens’ Bond Oversight Commission would oversee the road repair plan and designate residential streets for repair
Both commissions will be made up of citizens appointed by the Mayor and Council and the City Manager
Commissions will meet regularly and create annual reports
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Question: Why can’t the City use existing funds to resurface streets and purchase public safety items?
Answer: Since the recession, the City has been unable to invest in large capital needs, like major road repairs and facility improvements, due to a decline in sales tax revenue and rising costs. In the past, the City also relied on Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) money from the state to pay for investment in streets. In recent years, the state has reduced the HURF allocation to cities across the state.
Question: Didn’t voters recently approve a tax for road repairs?
Answer: In 2012, city voters approved Proposition 409 which provided $100 million in General Obligation Bonds to restore city streets. More than 179 miles of city streets have been improved through the street bonds program which ends in 2018.
Question: How would neighborhood streets be selected for improvement?
Answer: The Tucson Department of Transportation uses a comprehensive engineering analysis to evaluate residential street conditions. The citizens on the Bond Oversight Commission use this data, along with public input to select the streets for repair.
Question: If approved by voters, can the money be used for items not described in the ballot language?
Answer: No. The money generated through Proposition 101 can only be used for public safety capital expenses and road repairs. A citizens oversight commission would examine the expenditures to ensure the funds are being spent as directed by the voters. None of the money would be used for public safety salaries or pension costs.
Question: Why is the map showing that $5 million of the money slated for major road repairs would be used for preservation on roads recently improved?
Answer: Of the $60 million slated to repair major roads with money from the sales tax increase, $55 million would be used to reconstruct streets in failed condition. The remaining $5 million would be spent on less expensive asphalt preservation treatments to extend the life of roads in excellent condition.
Question: How would the City fund capital needs and road repair when the Proposition 101 program has ended?
Answer: After the five-year, half-cent sales increase ends, the City would have invested $150 million in public safety capital needs and made substantial progress in providing the emergency responders with the vehicles, equipment, and facility improvements that they need to serve the community. In future fiscal years, the City would look to add a capital improvement program to its annual budget to fund capital needs on an ongoing basis. The City will retire debt on its Highway User Revenue Funds in the future, which will create more capacity for road improvements.
Question: How does the City of Tucson sales tax rate compare with other Arizona cities?
Answer: Currently the City of Tucson receives 2 percent retail sales tax. Only nine Arizona cities and towns have lower retail sales tax rates. Unlike many other cities and towns in the state, Tucson does not collect retail sales tax on food or residential rentals.
Read the Choice is Yours, the official voter information publication for the May 16 Special Election.