Press Release – AFT-AFP Blasts Phoenix City Council’s “Endless” Parks Tax

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Contact: Tom Jenney, (602) 478-0146

Arizona Federation of Taxpayers & Americans for Prosperity Blasts Phoenix City Council’s “Endless” Parks Tax

PHOENIX—The Arizona Federation of Taxpayers, a state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, condemned yesterday’s unanimous policy decision by the Phoenix City Council to move forward with a proposal to extend a city parks and preservation tax “in perpetuity.” The current parks and preservation tax, enacted in 1999, is set to expire next year.

“An endless tax gives city politicians a never-ending blank check,” said AFT-AFP state director Tom Jenney. “If a tax sunsets every ten years, that provides much-needed accountability, so that citizens can periodically review city practices,” he said.

Jenney also questioned the proposed uses of the tax. While the current tax has mainly been used to acquire and develop park lands, Deputy City Manager Rick Naimark explained to the Council yesterday that the endless parks tax would increasingly be used to pay for maintenance and operations functions, including park rangers and security. “This is a revenue source looking for a purpose,” said Jenney.  

Jenney also criticized the City Council for failing to consider private-sector alternatives, such as taking competitive bids and granting private companies the right to operate exclusive concessions in parks, such as coffee and ice cream stands, or nature tours, in return for providing maintenance, landscaping, security, and other services. “Out of a $124 million parks budget, fewer than one million dollars come from enterprise functions,” said Jenney. “Expanded private concessions could easily replace the $15 million annual revenue from the parks tax.” 

AFT chairman Chad Kirkpatrick questioned the propriety of placing the tax question on the May ballot, when a much more substantial voter turnout will occur in the November general election. Kirkpatrick also pointed out that the vote on the parks tax would be the City’s second tax vote in less than a year. “The City Council put the Prop 1 sales tax increase on the September ballot to get an additional $60 million a year for police and fire, after it deliberately underfunded police and fire budgets in order to make the tax increase more attractive to voters,” Kirkpatrick said.

The current tax, which is one-tenth of one percent on sales in Phoenix, will have raised over $200 million by the time it expires.

At its meeting next Tuesday, January 29th, at 3:00 p.m., the City Council will hold a final vote on an ordinance to refer the tax for voter approval to the May 20th ballot.

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For more on operating parks through private concessions, see the Reason Public Policy Institute’s report on managed competition programs in San Diego: 

http://www.reason.org/san_diego_managed_competition.pdf

From the Reason report: “Cost savings from outsourcing recreation facilities operation and management typically range from 19 to 52 percent. Cost savings from outsourcing park landscaping and maintenance range from 10 to 28 percent.”


Comments

  1. Buddy Breon says

    The City of Phoenix City Council has no respect for taxpayers. Those folks, mostly Democrats, see nothing wrong with taking as much money as they can from citizens while ignoring state and federal laws on illegal immigration, deriding resident complaints, and living a high-life of salaries far in excess of what the state pays its legislators.

    It’s time to tell them “no”!

    No more taxes. No more trick election schedules. No more grandstand displays. No more disrespect for taxpayers.

    NO sounds alike a good answer to this tax. It’s not for parks, its to free-up funds they presently spend on parks for other, more private reasons – like tax credits to wealth developers.

    Tell them NO!

  2. In this time of economic downturn in revenues the appropriate thing is to open the budget and re-prioritize spending. Calling on vital services to reduce their budgets without eliminating non-essentials in the overall city budget while imposing a permanent tax without first looking for alternatives sources of revenue or obligation of service is worse than short-sighted.

    This decision is brought to you by the same folks who bought the $2.5 million dollar jelly fish out of the same budget!

    Whatever happened to the idea of budget revisions taking money from non-essential services, cutting back in areas of less necessary things, like a huge deteriorating jellyfish, to appease the arts crowd while the police and fire departments must cut their budgets?

    I am an arts supporter, but when given the choice of safer streets or a singular piece of art…it’s a no brainer. Given the choice of higher taxes or a conversion to a revenue opportunity….even more obvious.

    Why not put a one year moratorium on specific non-essential services, like the arts budget, for any non-maintenance new purchases, look for cost savings and non-tax based revenue generating methods, and areas to cut taxes where increased tax revenue will be the end result?

    And who wants to be governor? Or mayor?

  3. I couldn’t agree more with Tom Jenney.

    Beside the usual Prop 13 protections the “golden bullet” also known as the Arizona Tax Revolt property tax rollback measures establish a means for the voters of any taxing entity to petition for and if necessary vote to reduce the property tax levy of that taxing entity. This will assure accountability to the taxpayer as money wasted this year could be eliminated from the next year’s budget. In other words a waste it and lose it policy!

    We need your help to qualify the property tax levy and valuation rollback measures so please visit our WEB site:

    http://www.arizonataxrevolt.org

    where you can volunteer to gather signatures or make a much needed contribution.

    Marc Goldstone, Chair.
    Arizona Tax Revolt

  4. If the Council wanted to save some money, this election would be called during the November general election. Calling it in May assures the Council that there will be less turn-out.
    It is appropriate the voters have a say on this tax. But the timing of the vote is what I seriously question. I’d also like to see a full accounting for where the money has gone since this tax was authorized – and I mean a detailed accounting, not just a bottom line review.

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