The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted, 3-2, on Tuesday to approve an ordinance that determines how to spend a half-cent sales tax for road repairs. But the chances of it crossing the finish line are virtually zero.
The fate of the Sales Tax Implementation Plan, which must pass the board unanimously because it's a tax increase, will be decided June 19. Supervisor Ally Miller, who voted against Tuesday's ordinance, has already said she would not back a tax increase to fix roads. Miller, who represents District 1 north of Tucson, says the county has enough money for road repairs if it eliminates wasteful spending.
Supervisor Steve Christy also voted against the plan. Christy, who represents District 4, which includes Green Valley, said he voted against the ordinance because of the caveat introduced by Supervisor Richard Elías, which would allocate more than $3 million annually for countywide social service programs over the course of the 10-year tax.
“I could not vote for that,” Christy said Tuesday after the vote.
That money would be drawn from the county’s general fund, Christy said, which is why he rejected the ordinance. If the county can take money from the general fund for social services, it can set aside funding for road repairs, he said.
Christy said he would vote against the final resolution in June.
He said that leaves a comprehensive plan to fix Pima County roadways “non-existent in the short-term.” Currently, the only viable hope is if the state Legislature allows the county to increase the RTA tax to one cent, he said. Repairs for unincorporated roads will cost at least $330 million, according to county estimates. Christy said bringing all of the county’s roadways up to speed will cost $800 million to $1 billion. The 10-year tax hike would provide $353 million to repair unincorporated county roads and another $550 million to city and town transportation infrastructure maintenance projects.
During the 10-year period, Sahuarita would receive about $25.6 million. Unincorporated areas, including Green Valley, would receive an additional $270 million from HURF (Highway User Revenue Fund) and VLT (Vehicle License Tax).
More than 70 percent of unincorporated roads are rated as poor or failed and the city of Tucson is facing the same liability, according to county documents.
If approved, all funds would go toward road repairs. The revenue would be proportionally distributed based on property value; the county would also create a database for all unincorporated roads, including a timetable for when a throughway would be improved to fair condition. The Regional Transportation Authority would help manage the project. The resolution would also eliminate the 25 cent Road Property Tax passed by the board last fiscal year.
Under the plan, the county would also establish a commission to offset the tax increase for low-income residents, allocating at least $3 million to mitigate the increase annually, and an additional $500,000 each year after that. After the 10-year life of the tax, that would be more than $50 million.