Greetings and welcome to June. Although we all hoped that the “cool spell” over the Memorial Day weekend would linger, clearly we’re in for a long, dry, hot summer. Just keep telling yourself “it’s a dry heat” – and then make your vacation plans for somewhere north or west from here as many do. Those of us who are here for the duration will drink plenty of fluids and think longingly of October’s probable cooler temperatures.
Before I totally move away from the weather, I’m going to once again ask all of us to be extra careful with flammable and flaming things. With the outbreak of multiple fires in northern central Arizona last month, most counties (including Pinal) will be adopting strict bans on the use of fireworks and calling for extreme vigilance by the general public.
Bryan Martyn stepped away from his seat on the County’s Board of Supervisors on April 30th, leaving the Board to execute a public process that would lead to the appointment of someone (of the same partisan registration as Mr. Martyn and living in the same Supervisoral district) to serve the remainder of his term. Thirteen District 2 citizens – all Republican and residents of the district – stepped forward to volunteer to serve on the Board and represent District 2 until December 31st, 2012.
It was a difficult task for us as the applicants were all distinguished and they all brought valuable strengths and experiential backgrounds with them. We (Supervisor Rios, Clerk of the Board Sheri Cluff, and me) ultimately chose Clark Smithson to fill the term. Supervisor Smithson brings a background in government and a determination to serve that will benefit our County and the Board. I look forward to working with Supervisor Smithson.
As you may know by now, the Board of Supervisors had a robust discussion and consideration of a tentative budget for FY 2013 last month. After what some might call a false start, we voted unanimously to adopt the lower primary tax rate of $3.79 per hundred dollars of assessed valuation and a tentative budget of 334,515,835. This is a twenty cent decrease from the current primary property tax rate. Total projected spending is six percent below last year’s budget of $357 million. The vote on May 25th set the upper ceiling for the budget. Final budget adoption will take place at the June 20th meeting.
When I considered the choice between lowering the primary tax rate by 20 cents or 10 cents, I pushed for the 20 cent reduction. In fact, I’ve argued for a reduction since we began the budget process in January of this year and I was pleased to see it reflected in the proposed tentative budget offered by county management.
There was vigorous debate on how to ‘split the baby’ – do we reduce the burden on taxpayers or do we reward Pinal County employees for slogging through the doldrums of this recession? Can we do both in the new budget? Supervisor Rios pressed strongly for a one-time bonus for employees or a small salary increase. The details and implementation plans for those options were unclear but presumably could be ironed out before the final budget is adopted.
It is my fervent hope that we can reward employees sooner than later. BUT, if we are truly public servants, our residents come first. They’re the ones who moved here, invested in Pinal County, saw their property values decline, experienced foreclosure, job loss, and other hardships – either personally or through relatives, friends, and neighbors. Those are the people I took an oath to represent.
Do we have hard-working, dedicated employees who have endured hard times? Absolutely. Do most employees live in Pinal County and pay taxes here? Absolutely. Should we recognize their hard work? Absolutely. I am committed to rewarding the dedicated public servants who work at Pinal County but I want to proceed cautiously. There are faint signs of recovery in Pinal County, but there are indeed hurdles and challenges ahead.
My vote on May 23rd and again on May 25th was to recognize the sacrifice of the majority – to give a 20 cent reduction to the property owners and struggling business owners who have invested their future and fortune in Pinal County. I hope to also reward the Pinal County employees. They’re the ones who pave your roads, patch your potholes, investigate your infectious diseases, register you to vote, conduct elections, monitor your air quality, ensure your safety and police your communities.
It is my hope that we can craft a plan to also reward employees as a part of that final budget, but I took an oath to all of you. That is why I supported a greater reduction in the primary tax rate.
I would be remiss indeed if I didn’t salute our local veterans groups who devoted untold hours to honoring all of our veterans throughout the Memorial Day weekend. The American Legion, Marine Corps League and Daughters of the American Revolution gathered together on Friday, May 25th to provide a special program of thanks to the veterans living in the Garnet in Casa Grande. They recognized nearly 20 veterans who served our country ranging from World War II to Viet Nam.
On Memorial Day itself, these same groups in concert with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (Post 1677), the Elks and Lions Club and many, many more organizations participated in the annual Casa Grande Memorial Day ceremonies at Mountain View Cemetery. As always, the Antique Aircraft Association of Arizona started the observance with a fly-over of the event as the crowd of over 500 area residents listened to speakers and remembered those friends, neighbors, relatives, and strangers who fell in the service of this great country.
Behind the scenes, there’s a small but dedicated group of Casa Grande area folks who are the core of the planning and execution of a year-long celebration and honoring of area veterans. They come together regularly throughout the year to organize, publicize, and manage the Casa Grande Veterans Day parade, the Memorial Day commemoration, and are lending a hand to the cause of the Pinal County Veterans Memorial Foundation to name just a few events. I won’t name them – they don’t do what they do for the publicity and usually shun the spotlight – but I salute them all the same and say: “Thank you for your service to our community, our county, our country, and our veterans.”
See you around the county,
David Snider, Supervisor
Pinal County District 3