As elected leaders in the Town of Gilbert, we feel a responsibility to the citizens of Gilbert to explain our rationale when it comes to our votes. We voted “no” when it came to putting a permanent .25 percent tax increase dedicated to public safety before the voters because we believed then, and still do, that we have more work to be done, that government CAN become more efficient and because tax increases should only be used as a very last resort and only to provide essential services.
Much has been said about Proposition 406. Here are the facts:
1. This is a PERMANENT tax increase. There is no sunset clause or expiration date.
2. The tax increase, if passed, will put our town sales tax rate at 1.75 percent — it will include food but due to a recently passed state law, will not include construction tax. The construction tax rate will remain at 1.5 percent. (As a reference, Chandler’s is 1.5 percent and Mesa’s is 1.75 percent)
3. The .25 percent is “dedicated” to public safety. The first year projections of the tax would raise $5.1 million. In a statement made by former Manager George Pettit, these will be the first dollars in the public safety budgets. The remaining money needed to fund public safety at the current levels (approximately $55 million) will need to come from the general fund — the same fund used to pay for the majority of town operations.
We firmly believe that we can balance the 2010-11 budget without a tax increase. There are efficiencies to be found in Gilbert and the citizens budget committee, town staff and council members have spent countless hours finding those efficiencies. A long list has been generated and we have a responsibility to the citizens to see those recommendations through — to properly vet them through the public process and to make decisions based on the best interest of the community as a whole. We receive more value from our tax dollar in Gilbert than through any other government entity. However, we cannot assume that we have exhausted all possibilities for better, more efficient ways of doing business. There is work to be done and a tax increase is not the answer. Make no mistake, funding our public safety departments is, and should always be, our first priority.
As stewards of your tax dollars, we feel a responsibility and obligation to validate the spending of each and every penny. Until we have proven that all other options have been exhausted, we simply cannot ask you to reach into your pocket and provide the government with your hard-earned resources. Government can do better. The Town of Gilbert has a wonderful reputation in the valley for setting an example of properly using government funds. Let’s continue.
John Lewis, Mayor, Town of Gilbert
Jenn Daniels, Council member, Town of Gilbert