Last week, City Council gave direction to staff to begin a conversation about the expiring Preserve tax. In 1995, residents approved a 2/10% sales tax to fund land acquisitions in the Preserve. That tax expires in 2025.
We can be very proud. We acquired over 30,000 acres, spending over $1 billion dollars to create the largest urban preserve in the country.
So, with the tax expiring in the next few years, we ask ourselves: What’s next?
Do we need a sales tax to maintain our current level of services? Our share of state shared revenues are declining as Scottsdale’s population growth slows. It is also predicted that the new state flat tax rate will further erode our income from the state. Should we consider a sales tax to offset these revenue losses?
Or, is there another big idea or other community wants or needs?
I imagined a broad community conversation with many different constituent groups from across the city. This group would consider ideas and make recommendations about whether or not we ask residents to replace the expiring tax and for what purpose.
If we follow the direction given by the majority of council members, this will not happen.
At a recent City Council meeting, the City Council majority gave direction to staff about how to move this conversation forward. The Council majority narrowed the scope of the conversation just to consider future needs of the Preserve, the Greenbelt and parks. However, most of the conversation focused on investments in the Preserve. Councilmember Whitehead made a passionate speech about the need to buy more land for the Preserve.
In addition, the Council majority wants to convene a working group of political appointees. This means the City Council majority can appoint people they know will give them the recommendations they want. It is an interesting turn from folks who say they listen to residents.
In the end, City Council has the responsibility to decide if we ask residents for the tax and for what purpose.
To get there, I believe the Council should identify constituencies that should be included in the working group, let staff select the members with direction to include a broad representation, provide lots of opportunity for additional community input and ask the group to consider all community needs,
What do you think? Please email the City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Linda Milhaven is an elected member of Scottsdale City Council.
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