January 10, 2005
East Valley municipalities are pursuing limited legislative agendas, but will keep a close eye on issues ranging from state-shared revenue to retail sales tax incentives to sex offender clustering.
During this session, Mesa will push for expansion of business improvement districts, increased bond capacity and the limiting of exempt water wells, while monitoring potential legislation on the reduction or elimination of sales tax incentives, changes to the commercial property tax rate and sex offender clustering.
Gilbert will focus primarily on the state-shared revenue formula, while Chandler plans to be involved in the likely sales tax incentive debate.
Here is a city-by-city breakdown of what officials will follow:
Jim Huling, Mesa’s assistant to the city manager, said the distribution of stateshared revenue remains the city’s top legislative priority.
Mesa will support expansion of enhanced municipal service improvement districts, which Huling said would be helpful for the Fiesta Mall area.
Today, such districts are only allowed in a slum or blighted district, a pocket of poverty or neighborhood strategy area. The district could provide for aesthetic, parking and curb appeal enhancements.
Mesa will support legislative action — and then voter approval — to increase bonding capacity from 6 percent to 20 percent of the city’s net assessed valuation for transportation and public safety issues. This would allow cities to issue more bonds for roads and police and fire facilities, pending voter approval.
The city also plans to work with Phoenix to further legislative action to give municipalities more ability to control sex offender clusters, while remaining in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Federal Fair Housing Act.
The city will also support proposed legislation limiting the drilling of new exempt wells. Huling said this would not affect existing exempt wells, but would limit the proliferation of the wells in the urban areas that he said are negatively affecting municipal water providers.
Chandler is not pursuing any legislation this year, but is keeping an eye on anything that might have an impact on the fast-growing suburb, Chandler lobbyist Patrice Kraus said.
Kraus said the city will assist in supporting the League of Arizona Cities and Towns’ resolutions while watching for any legislation that could negatively affect the city.
Kraus said the issue of retail sales tax incentives will likely come up.
"We would like to work on that issue locally on a case-bycase basis, but we understand there are some legislators who may want to draft some legislation on that," Kraus said.
Gilbert expects to receive an additional $55 million in state-shared revenue based on the results of a special 2005 census — and it wants every penny, town officials said.
Mayor Steve Berman and Town Manager George Pettit said the town’s top legislative priority is making sure the distribution of state-shared revenue remains the same. Berman and Pettit said other goals may surface as the new session gets under way.
Smaller towns and municipalities with declining populations have talked about changing the way the money is distributed to allow a minimum level of funding to each municipality, regardless of size, Pettit said. Currently, the distribution is based on population.
That system is both good and bad for Gilbert, Berman said, but any change would be worse.
"It’s an imperfect formula and Gilbert doesn’t get its fair share," Berman said. "We’re getting state-shared revenue for 109,000 people and we have 170,000 people, how fair is that?"
The system works with Gilbert’s growing population, but the census-based formula lags far behind the town’s actual rate of growth.
That’s why Gilbert is counting on the results of the 2005 special census, which in September will survey 3,350 households, or 6 percent of Gilbert’s population to determine 2006-07 funding. An estimate by the Maricopa Association of Governments showed Gilbert gaining about $55 million over five years because of its population increase.
Tempe could be the East Valley’s biggest loser in the state-shared revenue sweepstakes.
The city’s population growth has slowed over the years, meaning Tempe could see significantly less state revenue in 2006-07.
Amber Wakeman, the governmental relations director, said the city will fight to save its current 14 percent share. Faced with projected budget deficits of nearly $7 million in the coming years, city leaders are looking to save money anywhere they can.
Wakeman also said the city will guard against any state attempt to grab local control.