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This week The Times will begin a series with the candidates for mayor and Town Council responding to questions posed by the newspaper staff.

The first question presented is as follows: Do you believe Transaction Privilege Tax (sales tax) is adequate to finance Town needs going into the future? If not, what options do you see as viable to pursue?

Joe Arpaio: Fountain Hills is running out of money which is hampering proper funding to meet its objectives. To receive more revenue we must increase development, be pro-business and make unique decisions such as dismantling fire services and replacing the services where 100 percent goes to the fire district, not the general fund. Also, the town and water district own hundreds of acres of land, which can be put to good use in Fountain Hills.

We must increase tourism and support from out-of-state visitors. I will audit the Town administration to streamline the bureaucracy, including consolidation, if necessary. When I was Sheriff for 24 years with a $350 million annual budget, I gave back millions to the government and taxpayers each year, which is unheard of in government. I expect to do the same as mayor.

I hope to use my past experience in law enforcement and business when I meet high government and business officials and will utilize these contacts for the betterment of Fountain Hills, such as receiving grants. I have additional experience owning several properties and businesses in Fountain Hills including a travel/tour agency in the vicinity of Fountain Hills for the past 43 years. Also, I’ve lived in Fountain Hills for the past 23 years.

Ginny Dickey: Local sales tax collections of $14M make up 63% of our total revenue, followed by State Shared Revenue (29%.) For example, the increase needed from the current sales TPT rate of 2.9% to satisfy the annual funding just to maintain streets would disadvantage our town. In order to raise about $4M more per year – the amount the approved pavement management plan indicated was appropriate – would require a rate of 3.7%. We will continue to increase economic activity but can’t rely on sales tax to close that gap.

Additionally, storm water management has become an increasingly important issue, plus aging infrastructure at our namesake park, and public safety costs.

Ever since property taxes collected by the former Road and Fire districts ceased decades ago, efforts to secure reliable funding spanning several councils have stalled, included bonding, property taxes, environmental and public safety fees. Some relief came by increasing sales tax and a successful Saguaro bond. A short-lived stormwater fee that supplied much-needed funding when Golden Eagle flooded – and would’ve been tapped to repair the Panorama pipe and erosion problems – had to be discontinued due to the Legislative threat of withholding State Shared Revenue.

Now debt-free, the Town will hear from our citizen road committee, perhaps recommending bonding as a partial solution. Should the Lake liner or other infrastructure fail, while we have set-aside reserves, voters may be asked to help, too. We will continue to partner with MAG, ADOT, County and Federal Governments to share projects and secure grants. Fees may become viable again. A property tax, while logical and stable, may not.

Sales tax is our lifeblood, supplemented however we can. Conservative budgeting and CARES relief provide a short reprieve. I am proud of Council and staff balancing priorities and plan to continue with input from the community.

Cindy Couture: Fountain Hills is one of the few cities or towns in the Valley to run their jurisdiction almost entirely on sales tax. Since the public has voted against the imposition of a primary property tax, the Town has no option other than to fund only things that are absolutely needed as opposed to things that are nice to have.

For example, our current biggest funding problem is replacing and repairing our roads. Consultants have said we need at least $7 million per year to maintain our roads. At present the town can only afford $2 million to $4 million (a higher amount than usual, thanks to the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act.) Thus, every year, we go a few million dollars more in the hole for street repairs.

How is living within our means to be done? As the Town has done in the past, we absolutely must continue to apply for every state and federal government funding grant available to us. We must spend wisely. Watch every dollar. Live within our town’s income.

As our Town Councils have done in the past, we must prioritize our spending for only what is most important.

Brenda Kalivianakis: I recognize that the town has revenue needs but there are two sides to that equation. I find that both revenue and expenses must be scrutinized. The Town creates a great deal of revenue through the sales tax it levies, grants, and through miscellaneous fees and other income streams.

A town should be managed like an average American household. Although we want a nicer car, a bigger house and other luxury items, our spending should align with our budget. The big cheat is the use of credit cards, to pay for stuff now and worry about paying it back later. Raising taxes has the same effect as a credit card. You run up taxes or keep taxing for things you deem important today, and suddenly you’re neck deep in debt. In Fountain Hills’ case, we will raise taxes, raise user fees, licensing and anything to feed the beast. Suddenly, you end up like California, Illinois, New York or even the USA.

The burden you put on the people, particularly post-COVID and with inflation so high, punishes the citizens you were sworn to protect and defend. Taxed enough already!

How about we live within our means and cut the fat, or simply put, only fund “must have” projects and eliminate, on a temporary basis, “want to have” projects? These projects include roundabouts, parks people don’t want (Sunridge), crosswalks to nowhere, etc.; the list is long.

How about we fix the roads, work on storm water mitigation, repair our leaky Community Center and fix the infrastructure? These are not sexy projects that help politicians get elected but they serve the people’s interests, increase property values and the quality of life. If elected, you will not find my name in the headlines, I will be out patching potholes.

Allen Skillicorn: It is preposterous to suggest any new taxes for Fountain Hills! Just insinuating more taxes is going in the wrong direction; we can do better and that is why I’m running for Town Council. We should be talking about creating a thriving and vibrant business environment that attracts new entrepreneurs, merchants, restaurants and visitors to our town.

I am independent of special interests and value people over politics. I am committed to protect the values and traditions of our industrious community. Citizens’ safety and their pocketbooks are the cornerstones of this guarantee.

The people are facing challenges: inflation, unemployment and climbing health care costs. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know what the Town of Fountain Hills should do to make things right. We must embrace traditions of hard work, thrift and initiative at Town Hall to make Fountain Hills a better place to live and work.

Low taxes and a common-sense approach to local regulations should be the standard. We must “open the books” and be more transparent with our finances. I propose “Every Dime, Online, In Real Time!” While making records public online doesn't achieve anything on its own, you cannot improve what you cannot measure. Let’s start with public accountability and improve from there.

Hannah Toth: The permanent primary property tax was a poor proposal because of that first word, “permanent.” The Council cannot continue to approve wasteful spending and then ask the people for a blank check, and this is why it was voted down multiple times.

First and foremost, let’s show we can be responsible with the budget we are currently given by prioritizing the town’s needs and not spending tens of thousands on “studies.” Secondly, we need an experienced grant writer to help stretch our budget and a fund set aside for matching these grants so that the staff knows what we can and cannot afford to apply for. The people of Fountain Hills have made their stance clear on moving to a property tax so it's our job as a council to make the sales tax-based budget work for the best interests of the residents and the future of our town!

Lastly, sales tax revenue increases as Fountain Hills becomes more business friendly. It’s no secret we have 1,000's of square feet in empty commercial space. Our Chamber’s doing a great job and I’m excited to hear more from the Town’s new Economic Development Director, Amanda Jacobs, as she addresses this empty space issue, but some things need to change on the council side as well to create a more business friendly Fountain Hills, namely, the sign ordinance which places an undue burden on our local businesses. As the business community of Fountain Hills grows and improves, so does the Town’s ability to work with the sales tax-based budget, and therefore, our quality of life as residents.