Aug 152014

By Tammy Gray

Members of the Holbrook City Council axed a tax Tuesday night when they voted to eliminate the city’s primary property tax. The rate is now officially set at zero percent.

“It’s logical that this should happen,” said City Manager Ray Alley.

He told the council that he believes governments should work to eliminate property taxes and he is glad to see Holbrook take the lead.

“I like to see the ball rolling in this direction,” he noted.

Earlier in the meeting, Navajo County Manager Jimmy Jayne made a presentation to the council explaining the county’s reasons for increasing property tax rates this year. According to Jayne, the county was facing a budget shortfall of nearly $4 million, and is using a tax increase to make up a portion of that.

Holbrook Mayor Jeff Hill noted that Holbrook takes in about $50,000 per year in primary property taxes and is in sound enough financial shape to get by without it. He told the council that most citizens he spoke to were excited about the prospect of a reduced tax, but one questioned why the city would give up a source of revenue when there are so many projects that need to be completed.

Hill explained that the tax revenues go into the general fund and are divided up among many departments rather than specified for a particular use, and do not make a significant difference in the overall scheme of the budget.

“I get what they are saying and it makes sense,” he said. “But we can’t designate it and we should generate our revenues through sales tax.”

Councilman Wade Carlisle noted that he supports the philosophy of eliminating property tax.

“In America you can never really own your property because you always have to pay these property taxes and as soon as you stop paying, the government comes and takes your property,” he said.

He told the council that he believes, ideally, government should be generating revenue through sources other than property taxes.

“I would like to see all of Navajo County move away from property taxes so that when you pay it off, you own your home,” Carlisle said.

Without further discussion, the council voted unanimously to set the city’s primary property tax rate for the 2014-15 fiscal year at zero percent.

Earlier in the meeting, a group of citizens asked the council to consider making improvements to Mission Lane. The group cited concerns about safety, especially the safety of pedestrians walking at night along the unlit street.

“I feel it’s an unsafe road. It’s not the rural road it used to be,” noted resident Trent Larson.

Vice Mayor Charles Haussman echoed Larson’s sentiments, explaining that visibility is an issue when driving the road at night, and that deterioration along the edge of the road forces pedestrians on to the road and drivers must move to the middle to avoid them.

Alley explained that city roads are being repaired as the budget allows, but there is not enough money to complete all of the needed work. He told the council that there is a system in place for prioritizing street work, and it is based on the amount of traffic, the condition of the road and the cost of the repairs compared to what is available in the budget. According to Alley, work on Mission Lane will be expensive due to the length of the road and the drainage issues that must be addressed.

Following a lengthy discussion, the council took no action, but asked Alley to have a streetlight installed on a pole at the corner of Mission Lane and Carlos Avenue, and advised the citizens that the best option for repairing the road quickly and adding street lights is to form an improvement district.

“We’re going to attempt to bring all of the roads up to standard by following the best recommendations of staff,” Councilman Carlisle said, noting that it will take many years to reach that goal. “All of us would like more stuff, but the reality is there just isn’t the funding.”

In other action Aug. 13, the council:

* Held the first reading of an amendment to the city’s weapons ordinance.

Alley noted that the changes bring the ordinance in line with state law.

* Declared Skaggs Professional Apparel as a sole source provider for police uniforms.

* Approved the expenditure of up to $5,517 for the purchase of body cameras for police officers.

Chief of Police Mark Jackson noted that the body cameras will replace those currently in vehicles and will be used to record interactions with the public.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 26, at city hall.