FLORENCE — The Town Council gave final approval to the town’s annual budget and heard pending changes to various tax rates in town at a special meeting July 1.
Councilwoman Karen Wall noted toward the end of the meeting that the town’s primary tax rate is set to drop three cents; the tax rate in Merrill Ranch Community Facilities District No. 1 is set to drop by $2.56; the tax rate in Merrill Ranch CFD No. 2 is set to go up 27 cents; Streetlight Improvement Districts 1 and 2 will continue to have no tax levy; and residents in SLID 3 will pay a tax rate of 12 cents.
The council held a public hearing and adopted the town’s budget for the new fiscal year. The council approved a tentative budget on June 3 of $45,251,331. The budget hasn’t changed since then, although the town has learned State Shared Revenues will be slightly lower than projected, Florence Finance Director Rey Sanchez said.
The council held a public hearing and heard the first reading of an ordinance setting the town’s property tax rate. Sanchez said the town’s primary tax rate will drop from $1.10 to $1.07 per $100 of net assessed value. The tax rate is expected to generate $1,166,611 for general government, primarily police and fire, Sanchez told the council. The council will vote to approve the rate at its next regular meeting July 15.
The council held a public hearing and heard the first reading of an ordinance on tax levies for Streetlight Improvement Districts 1, 2 and 3. Districts 1 and 2 will continue to have a zero tax rate, while District 3 will have a 12-cent tax rate. This means the owner of $200,000 home in District 3 will pay approximately $24 to fund neighborhood streetlights.
District 3 covers much of the west side of Anthem, including both sides of Hunt Highway, half of Sun City and D.R. Horton’s new housing.
Vice Mayor John Anderson said it doesn’t seem right that the town pays for streetlights for part of town but not the rest of town. Councilwoman Judy Hughes agreed. Councilwoman Kristen Larsen also said she didn’t like the idea of the SLID.
Town Manager Brent Billingsley said that without SLIDs, there would be far fewer lights and a big hit to the town’s general fund. He said the town could circulate petitions to ask other parts of town to form a SLID, but “good luck” asking people to tax themselves.
Merrill Ranch CFDs
Sitting as the board of directors for first Merrill Ranch CFD No. 1 and then No. 2, the council members held public hearings and adopted annual budgets for each district.
Sitting as the board of directors for CFD No. 1, the council members held a public hearing on a markedly lower property tax rate. The ad valorem tax for general obligation debt service will be 42 cents per $100 of assessed value, which should raise $124,779 for the district, District Treasurer Rey Sanchez told the board. An additional 30 cents for maintenance and operations of the district is expected to raise $83,685.
The traditional tax rate, for most of the district’s history, has been $3.25, plus 30 cents to reimburse the town of Florence to maintain and operate the district. Billingsley told the board that a state law passed a couple of years ago holds the tax rate more strictly to what is needed to meet expenses. The board reduced the rate last year and must further reduce it this year to stay in compliance with state law, he said. The board is scheduled to take action on the new tax rate on July 15.
Sitting as the board of directors for CFD No. 2, the council members held a public hearing on a slightly higher tax rate for the new budget year, back up to the traditional maximum of $3.25, plus 30 cents to reimburse the town of Florence to maintain and operate the district. This levy is projected to raise a total of $763,268 to cover the district’s debt service and operations.
Billingsley told the board that last year’s rate was lowered based on no additional debt. But this year, a recent audit suggests the district needs to continue to levy the maximum rate to cover its debt. The board is scheduled to take action on the new tax rate on July 15.
In other business, the council:
- Awarded a contract to Ellison Mills Contracting to install valves, fire hydrants and related facilities, and replacing curb, sidewalk and asphalt as necessary in an amount up to $525,201. Public Works Director Christopher Salas said this will complete the town’s 12-inch water loop project downtown, with bigger water lines and more hydrants. He added it will be “a proud moment for me to finish this project.”
- Agreed to abandon Florence Street, between Butte Avenue and 11th Street, so that Pinal County may construct a pedestrian area. The county is planning new construction and renovations including a new office building on the east side of Florence Street. In discussions between county and town representatives, “all parties have agreed that this request is beneficial to the overall County Complex design,” according to a town staff report.
- Recognized and congratulated Police Sgt. Phil Riccomini for completing the 10-week Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, and Fire Battalion Chief Jim Walter for completing the National Fire Academy’s Managing Officer Program.
- Heard a presentation on United Way of Pinal County’s many programs. Mayor Tara Walter commented that the town has enjoyed partnering with the United Way and looks forward to doing so again. Councilwoman Michelle Cordes asked why Florence isn’t involved in the United Way’s “Peanut Butter Challenge” to collect food for hungry children. According to United Way, one in five Arizona children lives in a “food-insecure” household, and in Pinal County the ratio is one in four.