Wednesday, the Oro Valley Town Council will consider to direct Oro Valley Town Manager Greg Caton to "explore lower levels of the utility tax during the preparation of the 5-year financial forecast." They are not going to actually consider lowering the utility tax at this time. They are merely going to ask the town manager to use it as one of the options as he develops the 5-year financial forecast.
"On April 1, 2007, the Town Council approved an increase to the utility sales tax rate, raising it from 0% to 2%. The original ordinance included a 2-year sunset clause. On March 4, 2009, the Council voted to extend the utility sales tax. On May 4, 2011, Council approved a 2% increase to the tax, raising it to 4%. The 4% tax is applied to the utility bills of those Oro Valley residents and businesses that receive water service from the City of Tucson, Metropolitan Water Company and the Oro Valley Water Utility, electric power service from Tucson Electric Power Company, and natural gas service from Southwest Gas." (Source)
The utility tax has served its purpose. It was voted by the then council to be a 2% tax. It was later doubled by Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider, Waters and then Council Member Solomon to pay for more police services.
We've written so often about the unfairness of this action and of the ridiculous nature of the utility tax that our heads are spinning. We hate the utility tax. The utility tax is nothing more than a tax on necessities of life: Water, electric and gas. It taxes the rich. It taxes the poor. It taxes struggling families. It taxes retirees on fixed income. It has no energy saving benefit. We recall Council Member Salette Latas telling us that she was in favor of utility tax because it was a "sin tax". She, too, is wrong. It is not sufficient enough to truly reduce energy consumption. It is just another burden on the citizens.
Politicians always try to do things to favor themselves for reelection. Talking about reducing taxes is always a favorite. It is no surprise that Mayor Hiremath and Council Member Waters put this on the agenda so they can talk about it. It really means nothing. But it makes them look as if they're interested in reducing the tax.
Our message to them: Talk is cheap. It is action that matters.
We have had discussions with Council Member Zinkin regarding the utility tax for many months. We believe that Zinkin is in favor of reducing this tax now. After all, as Mayor Hiremath pointed out in his State Of The Town remarks, Oro Valley had a budget surplus in 2013. The Mayor pointed out in his remarks that Oro Valley is no longer in a budget crisis. A budget crises was the purported reason that the tax was doubled.
It is time to reward the utility tax payers of Oro Valley, which is most of us, by eliminating this tax. First, it is time for the Majority-4 Council step up and fix what they broke. Cut the tax now to 2%! Then, consider killing it altogether, as was the original intention when it was "sunsetted".
Like we said: Talk is cheap. It is action that matters.