FLORENCE — The challenges of being part of a global pandemic haven’t stalled progress in Pinal County, Board of Supervisors Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, said Wednesday.
“We’ve been able to keep employees paid at a competitive level. We’ve been able to build for the future” and have kept economic development successes on track with the promise of thousands of new jobs, Smith said.
The board also met its strategic goal of reducing the primary property tax rate an additional four cents, he continued. The board expects to formally approve a new primary property tax rate of $3.75 per $100 of net assessed value in the weeks ahead.
“So I want to congratulate my fellow supervisors, all our other elected officials, because they play a huge part in these overall accomplishments, the county manager, your leadership team and all staff because this has been a tremendous success in a very, very trying year,” Smith said.
Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, added, “People don’t always like paying taxes, but they do. We get the spotlight put on us because we seem to collect a lot of money. But I’ll tell you what — people don’t mind paying taxes if you spend their tax dollars wisely, and I think that’s what this board has done for a number of years.”
Miller said it’s starting to show, and Pinal County staff have been part of that accomplishment. He thanked the staff and his fellow board members, “because I think we’re doing the right thing for Pinal County.”
New annual budget
On Wednesday, the board held a public hearing and adopted a new fiscal year budget totaling $570,355,462. County Budget Director Angie Woods told the board that Pinal County’s portion of a local property tax bill is approximately 26 cents on the dollar, down from 31 cents 10 years ago. About 63% of the county’s budget goes for expenses related to criminal justice and law enforcement.
Construction is also underway on new county office buildings in Florence, San Tan Valley and Maricopa, all of which are being built for less than the county’s estimates. Archie Carreon, facilities manager, said the county received good bids. Supervisor Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said the building in his district will save the county money it now pays in rent in San Tan Valley, and his district will finally have a public library.
While the primary property tax rate is set to decrease, other taxing authorities such as the Pinal County Flood Control District and Pinal County Library District will have tax rates that are unchanged. But they will collect more tax due to a higher net assessed value in the county, Woods told the board. Even with the rate cut, Pinal County expects to collect almost $2 million more in primary property tax, not including taxes from new construction.
Vice Chairman Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, asked Woods if the state was still taking funds from counties. Woods replied that approximately $400,000 in state impact fees are built into the budget. Smith said the state charges the county “for the Arizona Department of Revenue’s work for us.”
Rios said, “They can call it a user fee if they wish; they’re still taking our money.”
- County Manager Louis Andersen reported the county has received its expected $27 million in U.S. CARES Act funding in reimbursement for expenses related to COVID-19. The county is distributing some of that money through its Business Sustainability Program. In the last two weeks the program has received 94 applications and has issued 24 checks totaling $220,000, Andersen said.
The program provides up to $15,000 to each qualifying business in unincorporated Pinal County to help cover its expenses resulting from the state’s recent stay-at-home order. Smith asked how quickly the county was processing these applications and cutting checks. Andersen said applications that are filled out correctly and completely are getting funds in five or six days. He said county staff are also working on a “shop local” program and he would have more details to report soon.
Andersen said Nikola Motors has announced its groundbreaking in Coolidge will be on July 23, and Pinal County Workforce Development staff are working with the company on its hiring needs. Nikola plans to hire its first 100 local employees by the end of the year.
- The Bighorn Fire in Pima County recently prompted the evacuation of about 200 Pinal County residents, although it didn’t cross too far into Pinal County, Andersen said. He reported the fire was 54% contained after burning 118,000 acres, and it is the sixth-largest wildfire ever in Arizona.