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Phoenix Approves Property Tax Hike

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Full house at Phoenix City Council meeting on Friday, July 1, 2016.

The Phoenix City Council voted 5-4 Friday to raise the property tax so it could cover the budget it passed two months ago.

The city manager said the average homeowner will pay about $51 more this fiscal year. That’s based on a home with a full cash value of $191,000.

Just moments before the roll call it seemed the ‘no’ camp was gaining momentum.  Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring, the most vocal fiscal conservatives there, suggested the group meet during July, rather than take their break, and find places to cut the budget.

The mayor asked what would happen if the vote failed.

“Well, never in the history of the city of Phoenix that I’m aware of has the council not adopted a property tax levy,” City Manager Ed Zuercher said. “We would be in absolutely uncharted territory.”

How Phoenix will spend the additional $37 million caused debate. The city manager said the tax increase would be used to pay debt on bond projects, while opponents pointed out the city had a $60 million surplus.

The budget includes $50 million over the next two years to cover concessions employee union groups made during the recession. The employee unions include police and firefighters who have been vocal in supporting the budget and tax increase. The budget also includes new money for body cameras for police officers, medical record and billing technology upgrades for the Fire Department and programs for youth and veterans.

One Phoenix resident who spoke at the meeting said funding city employees was an essential reason to approve the tax increase.

“You defeat this and you will see attrition like you’ve never seen in this city before,” Greta Rogers said. “They will flee like rats from a shrinking ship.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated to reflect $50 million of the budget will pay for employee concessions over two years.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.