Fri, Oct. 18

It's up to you to closely monitor how your money is being spent

Tom Graham, President, Big Park Regional Coordination Council

Tom Graham, President, Big Park Regional Coordination Council

This month I am going to talk about “OPM” or “Other People’s Money” which refers to governmental taxing entities. OPM in that context means the governmental taxing entity is over-spending your and my assets unwisely without adequate oversight.

We can see examples of this in our own backyard. There are two local governmental entities with the power to levy property taxes: the Sedona Fire District (SFD) and the Red Rock Road Enhancement Maintenance District (RRREMD).

A Governing Board of 5 people who are our only oversight on the SFD budget governs the SFD. The SFD submits a budget to the Governing Board, which can approve or make changes before it sends it to the County Assessor. The County Assessor takes the budget figure and divides it by the total assessed value of properties within the SFD. That number is then the Mil Rate which last year for SFD was 2.45% (the mil rate has increased 56% since 2012). That number is then multiplied by the assessed value to create your property tax that will be collected and sent to SFD to operate the SFD.

The SFD Governing Board is our only chance to reign in over-spending. If the SFD does not perform its oversight to approve what is “needed” rather than what is “wanted,” taxpayers must try to elect a Governing Board that will perform its oversight and not be a “rubber stamp” regarding the SFD budget.

A comparison of SFD expenses to Central Yavapai Fire District and Verde Valley Fire District quickly shows that SFD spending is substantially out of line. The total expenses per employee of SFD is $168,000 compared to $132,000 for Central Yavapai and $43,000 for Verde Valley. More revealing is the personnel expenses (salaries & benefits) per employee for SFD is $126,000 compared to $95,000 for Central Yavapai and $97,000 for Verde Valley. Central Yavapai has more than double the calls per day, double protected population and double number of stations of SFD and yet Central Yavapai’s total expenses per employee is 27% less than SFD. Similarly Central Yavapai’s total personnel expenses per employee is 33% less than SFD. Maybe this is why our SFD property taxes have increased 47% since 2012. The 77% of SFD employees who do not live in the district are not paying the taxes from which they benefit. This is truly OPM for those employees.

With regard to the RRREMD, the 3-2 majority are trying to hold the line on taxes but the minority wants to raise your taxes and engage in experimental methods of weed control. Don’t be fooled by scare tactics and false claims by someone else’s agenda using OPM. The RRREMD utilizes only EPA approved products and methods for weed control. The Big Park Regional Coordinating Council, Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, AZ Department of Transportation and virtually every landscaper in the Verde Valley support these products.

Both situations have arisen due to lack of public attention – please get involved in one or both above.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The above information is the opinion of Big Park Regional Council President Thomas Graham

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