We are excited to announce that we succeeded in giving the people the right to vote on the use and spending of their tax dollars in Kingman. This is a win for the voters.
During the seven months we collected the signatures, we offered to negotiate with the City on a settlement of the increase in sales tax issue. We gave former interim City Manager Jim Bacon these requirements, but Bacon said they did not have the Council votes to comply with our requirements.
Requirements to drop initiative
• Put to a citizen vote the capital funds portion of the sales tax one-half percent
• Restrict the one-half percent for roads to being for roads only
• Require a supermajority of six to change or increase sales tax rates or use of funding
• Big ticket carve out for items over $4,000
After our group, Kingman Residents for Responsible Taxation, won the court case to get the initiative rightfully onto the ballot, Councilman Travis Lingenfelter requested we negotiate a settlement. At that point, it was too late to retract the petitions even if we wanted to retract them. We needed to “let the people vote” and decide their own future. Below is a list of reasons for this vote to occur and corrections of some erroneous information about the initiative and its impact on the City:
The passage of the sales tax increase to fund “capital improvement projects” by the City Council in August of 2017 was illegal and violated the opening meeting laws (per the Arizona attorney general letter from Jan. 2). The City Council was allowed to ratify this decision. If the current City Council would act illegally on this, can we trust them to manage our taxes without our input through a vote?
The passage of the sales tax increase continues to be an issue according to Oramel Skinner of the attorney general’s office. He did not address ARS 9-499.15, which requires any tax increase to be posted 60 days in advance with a discussion of the tax’s impact. The posting by the City on June 14, 2017 was 60 days in advance of the meeting on Aug.15, 2017, but it only addressed the increase in sales tax for pavement preservation – nothing about capital improvements. If someone were to spend the money and sue the city on this issue, the city may have to refund all the sales tax collected in the past year.
Pavement repairs and funding. Several comments have been made that the funding for roads is $1 million or less. Our understanding based on talking to the City finance manager is that the City receives around $2.7 million per year in HURF funds to use for roads. The city also has a special 1 percent tax on restaurants and bars that generates about $800,000 to $900,000 per year for roads. The current one-half percent sales tax increase is supposed to be for roads, but it is not dedicated as it is in the general fund and can be used as the City chooses. We feel that if the City needs more than $3.5 million for roads each year, it should submit this to the voters and make it a true restricted-fund for roads only. The last time the City raised the sales tax for roads, a tax that was scheduled to sunset in 2017, the money was not used for roads but spent on other things. Then the sunset feature was removed.
Cost of elections. Some on City Council have alleged that the sales tax initiative would require the city to spend $100,000 on a special election for the initiative and each time after when they want to propose an increase in the tax rate. This is simply not true. Arizona Statute requires any vote on sales tax issues to be held during the November general election, not at a special election.
The passage of the initiative will require future sales tax increases to be voted on by the people who are paying these sales tax rates. That seems fair and is not uncommon in other municipalities in Arizona.
We are concerned about City Council’s use of taxpayers’ money to fight the taxpayers. They fought the sales tax initiative and hired a Phoenix law firm to fight against the accuracy of the signatures of the citizens of Kingman. They also fought and went to court on keeping four of our community members from being on the ballot. In both cases our attorney tried to get the City to back off and listen to reason but they would not. Below is a quote from the law firm that won both cases:
“It’s so maddening that the City takes such unreasonable (and illegal) positions requiring citizens to hire lawyers to set them straight. I tried to get the City to change its position so we didn’t have to sue, and they flatly refused. It took the judge less than 30 minutes to rule against them today. So frustrating.”
City Council was presented these same facts at their last meeting but elected to spend taxpayer money to fight against the rights of the people. Seems like the City has excess time and funds to waste on lawsuits, which end up costing the taxpayers. We need a new City Council that will listen to the people and not spend taxpayer money frivolously.
We are not opposed to new taxes, but we are opposed to the way this was handled and passed illegally. We feel like Council was less than forthcoming about how this was handled and this was verified by the attorney general. We feel the tax needs to be rolled back until City Council has properly presented and justified its need for these funds and allows the voters to vote on the use of our money. If the City feels like they need more funding for the roads or other projects, they need to submit their case to the voters and let the people decide their future.
We believe in the right to vote and control our future.