One day after the Mesa Chamber of Commerce said it would only campaign for a tax hike that includes a property tax, the City Council said that option is back on the table.
The council agreed Thursday that it wants the flexibility of taking a primary property tax and sales tax increase, as well as $273 million in utility bonds, to the voters May 16. Meanwhile, the council ruled out the chance of asking for general obligation bonds that would implement a secondary property tax.
Mesa — first through a citizen committee and then the council — has been studying the city’s financial situation for nearly two years. Mesa is facing about $37.7 million in budget cuts next year if a new revenue source is not found.
The council plans to decide after a public hearing Monday what will go to the May ballot.
Although a majority of the council members said this week they do not support the primary property tax, the council wanted the option to change its mind or, as Councilman Tom Rawles said, at least give the perception a final decision had not been reached.
At this time, only one council member, Mike Whalen, says he supports a primary property tax. Another, Councilman Kyle Jones, said he hasn’t made up his mind. In October, a majority of members had agreed to seek a property tax before the results of a chamber poll showed only 38.6 percent of voters support the tax.
Mayor Keno Hawker has pushed an alternative scenario that as of this week had majority support. The plan calls for seeking a sales tax increase, selling off Pinal County land and attaching a secondary property tax to all future general obligation bond approvals.
But groups like the chamber say that’s not a long-term fix — which led the chamber to issue an ultimatum Wednesday: Seek a primary property tax or the chamber won’t campaign for the sale tax hike.
"We both agree we need a long-term stable revenue source for Mesa, but we’re disagreeing on the avenue to attain that goal," Hawker said.
The chamber, through its political action committee, successfully campaigned for the 1998 "quality-of-life" sales tax increase.
The council has not decided how a sales tax increase would be allocated. The current 1.5 percent rate will drop to 1.25 in July. The latest plan calls for an increase to 1.8 percent, with the additional money dedicated to streets and general operations.
Mesa City Council
What: May election ballot measure vote When: 5:45 p.m. Monday Where: 57 E. First St. Info: (480) 644-3333