Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sal DiCiccio: $7 Million Water Tax Cut/Business Tax Delayed

Good news for taxpayers and businesses from the Phoenix City Council: On Wednesday, we voted to decrease one water charge and delay imposing another. 
It’s not a lot of money in the $3 billion - plus budget that the city spends, but it at least is two connected dots heading in the right direction. 
You may have already noticed a jail tax on your water bill.  That tax was taken from you and used to subsidize individuals convicted of DUI's. 
 I have always believed that the individual committing the crime should be required to pay the cost and that law-abiding individuals should be held harmless.  It never made sense to me to charge all citizens with a water tax to pay for others’ DUI expenses.  On Wednesday, the Council took the first step toward shifting that cost away from your water bill and back to the people who commit the crimes.  I would have liked to see the entire tax go away, but the motion was to reduce the fee by 50 percent, and that is a good start. 
 The lowered fee, while netting only $1 a month on some residential water bills and more for local businesses, was one that annoyed ratepayers immensely.  
Four Council members (Jim Waring, Bill Gates, Tom Simplot and myself) asked to review the tax with the intent of reducing or eliminating it.  Newly elected Councilman Jim Waring led the fight, and the Council approved the measure by a 6 to 3 vote, reducing this tax by $7 million.  A very good step in the right direction. 
Taxpayers have told me that they didn’t see any connection between water rates and DUIs, and I agree. People who drive drunk should pay the costs, not water-consuming citizens who don’t. That’s not fair. 
Additionally, the delayed business fee is something known as the Water Resource Acquisition Fee, which has been charged to construction for the past decade. In 2008, the Council voted to raise that fee, but that never occurred because the Legislature slapped a moratorium on new fees because of the Great Recession. It was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2012. On Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council extended that fee increase to summer of 2014. 
Again, these are not huge decreases in the money Phoenix takes from citizens and businesses. It is, however, a refreshing change from the drumbeat of increases on property, services, struggling businesses and ratepayers that has been the norm as Phoenix tries to deal with reduced revenues (as all of you have had to do at the same time as all these increases). 
Job creation committee
You will soon hear that Councilman Tom Simplot and I will be chairing a committee to streamline operations and cut red tape for job creation in Phoenix.  This is an issue I have been working on for the past two years.  
 My goal will be to make Phoenix the best place in the nation for job creation.  
 In this new economy having a model that is merely better than we have right now is still not good enough, and quite frankly, having a model that is considered one of the best in the nation will still not be good enough.  Unfortunately, with our neighbors losing their homes, losing their jobs and shuttering their businesses, being better will not be good enough  No, If we are to compete in this new economy, we can no longer strive to be better, we have to strive to be the best.  And that will be the model I will be looking to accomplish.
My best to you and your family,
Sal DiCiccio
City of Phoenix
Councilman, District 6
What you pay & why reform is necessary:
$98,322           Average  annual total compensation for Phoenix staff 
14,999             Number of city employees 
$17,975           Average compensation increase since 2005-06 
$270 million    Amount taxpayers pay more for same number of workers  since 2005 
$130 million    Increases in Phoenix taxes/fees in past 18 months 
15                   Total number of city employees laid off because of the recession 
40.5                Days off (sick, holiday, personal, vacation) for first-year clerk 
$8,000             Education benefits per employee 
$0                   What staff pay for bus/rail (It’s free to them.) 
50s                 Age at which Phoenix staff can retire with pension

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