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New state budget could be doubly painful for Florence
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FLORENCE — If the state Legislature approves a flat income tax, the hit to Florence’s annual budget would be more than $1 million. If the state proceeds with closing Arizona State Prison-Florence Complex as well, the town’s loss would double.

A dent of more than $2 million “would be really tough for us to manage. It would likely lead to some sort of cutbacks,” Ben Bitter, assistant to the town manager, told PinalCentral.

A 2.5% flat income tax is part of the proposed budget. Gov. Doug Ducey apparently believes it would make the state more competitive. But cities and towns, which would have to absorb varying losses according to population, would be hindered in their abilities to grow and generate revenue for the state, Bitter said.

Such a tax cut would result in $285 million in annual losses to cities and towns, amounting to “the single largest cut to local governments in Arizona’s history,” according to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.

As part of a 1972 voter-approved initiative, cities and towns receive 15% of the state’s income tax collections. Bitter said cities traditionally have not weighed in on tax reform at the state level. But to offset local losses, the league now proposes that municipalities’ share be permanently increased to 18.9%.

“This is us proposing a solution,” Bitter said.

Meanwhile, Florence is also watching any state budget proposals pertaining to the Florence prison complex. There may be an allocation in the state budget to pay for the closure and the cost of transferring inmates to other facilities.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns commissioned Rounds Consulting Group economists to analyze the effects of a flat state income tax.

A key finding was that a tax cut this large would hinder local governments' ability to deliver quality essential services, including public safety.

Infrastructure investments and quality of life are also expected to suffer, further hindering municipalities’ ability to attract residents, businesses and job growth, the league said.

“Every single corner of the state would be impacted in the cities, and the cities are where we generate the revenue for the state,” Bitter said.

The Rounds analysis disagreed that cities and towns would make up for the losses with new recreational marijuana revenue and online sales tax.

“Regarding Prop. 207 (legalizing marijuana for adults), the initiative’s language is definitive in stipulating that monies from the excise tax on adult-use marijuana cannot be used to supplant or reduce existing allocations,” according to the league.

While “Wayfair” legislation modernized the tax code for online sales, “most remote transactions were already taxable because of the physical nexus of retailers in the state and do not represent net new revenue,” according to a league statement.

The flat tax would also mean a tax cut for many state residents. Bitter said an individual could compare the last state income tax bill with 2.5% of adjusted gross income to see the savings.

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County's new Development Services building opens to the public
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FLORENCE — Pinal County’s new two-story Development Services building, replacing the old “Building F” that was once a jail, opened with a ribbon cutting on May19.

“This building is way overdue, I’m so glad we finally built it,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, told the crowd assembled for the ribbon cutting. He said getting around the old building was so confusing, “I left bread crumbs to find my way out.”

County Manager Leo Lew said that’s because it was originally designed to keep people in, rather than help them conduct their business and get out. Building F was built as a jail in 1977 when the county’s population was less than 90,000, Lew said. The old building nearby was being demolished as employees and guests toured the new one on May 19.

The new $13 million building at 85 N. Florence St. houses staff from Community Development, Public Works, Air Quality and Open Space and Trails, who have been located in Building F since 2000, as well as staff from the civil division of the County Attorney’s Office. The lobby is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for Development Service requests.

At this time, appointments are required. To book an appointment, call 520-866-6442. For more information, visit www.pinalcountyaz.gov/CommunityDevelopment.

The building is one of three new county facilities to open in quick succession. Last month, a county government office building opened in San Tan Valley. Next week, a similar complex will open in the city of Maricopa.