What your vote means:
PRESCOTT LIBRARY UNINTENDED VICTIM OF VOTE
Sometimes our actions have unintended consequences. Probably the last thing most of us in Prescott would want to do is vote for a cut-back in our library's employees and hours. And yet a vote of “no” on Question 3 on the August 25th ballot may do just that.
Question 3 on the 2015 primary election ballot, to be sent out in August, says, “Sales Tax For Public Safety Pension Unfunded Obligations.” The explanation of this funding crisis is available on the City of Prescott Official Website.
The gap between full funding of the city's obligations to its current and future public safety retirees and the present funding level has grown to $70 million. The Public Safety Retirement System(PSPRS) has mandated that the unfunded obligations of member governments be paid over the next twenty-two years. If Prescott pays off its obligations during that period, the payments will total an estimated $165 million. Prescott did not create PSPRS but is a member. The current debt is neither the fault of the city nor of its public safety employees. Each contributes what PSPRS tells it to.
Defaulting on this obligation is not an option, as explained on the website. But did you know that an unintended consequence of voting “no” on this proposed 0.55% sales tax increment will mean a 10% cut in funding for our Prescott Library?
This decrease in the library's budget would be effective at the beginning of 2016 and would of necessity require a reduction in personnel and library hours. Not only that, but this will lead to a reduction in materials acquisition and increased wait times for all materials. If that were not dire enough, the cuts (as depicted on pie charts on the city website) would snowball each year until the library funding rapidly reached zero.
Anyone who has been to our Prescott Library knows that it is not only very attractive but functional; providing access to a county-wide catalog, access to electronic materials, access to 48 on-line data bases, access to meeting rooms, study carrels, concerts, lectures, and youth programs. It is open sixty hours per week, and someone walks through its doors on average every twenty-three seconds during those hours.
Most of all, its friendly staff and plethora of reading materials make it a great place to spend time exploring new ideas and other worlds. In short, our public library is a local treasure we have all nurtured with volunteer hours, donations and purchases with the Friends' book sale, and our dollars and taxes.
Charging patrons of the library for their usage is not an option. This would result in the loss of property-tax monies from the county that are explicitly designated for free libraries. Also, we are indebted to Andrew Carnegie for one of his free-to-the-people grants which made our library possible. A key component of Carnegie's formula was to provide free service to all, and that has remained a stipulation of the generous donations that have helped to expand and modernize the library.
Another of the Carnegie requirements was the willingness of people and government to raise taxes to support the library. Unfortunately, the state has hamstrung the city of Prescott by limiting its ability to raise property taxes more than minimally, and the municipal tax base has been eroded by expanding exemptions such as those for construction contracting and residential rental taxes. Enacting a sales tax increment to pay off the PSPRS liability will among other things “enable continuation of services and amenities supported by the General Fund(police, fire, library, and recreation), thereby sustaining Prescott's quality of life,” according to the city's website.
An increase in the sales tax is not particularly palatable to anyone, but as thoughtful citizens of our city, we need to be mindful of the ramifications of voting it down.
Kris Holt, Board Member, Friends of the Prescott Public Library
Prescott's General Fund
For more information, go to: www.prescott-az.gov
then click 2015 Election and then click Question #3: SalesTax for Public Safety Pension Unfunded Obligations
Speak up for the Prescott YOU want!
Help decide Prescott's future!
This election will determine the direction of our city
for many years to come, your vote is important!
Be an informed voter; consider the options.
And return your ballot before August 25 to be counted
A NO vote means:
Pensions will continue to be funded from General Fund
A YES vote means:
Sales tax will pay unfunded pensions
Visitors pay 30% of sales tax in Prescott
General Fund remains available for:
Voting in the upcoming election is important . The City of Prescott is proposing a .55 percent of one cent increase in the sales tax. Below are the graphs of the budget for 2015 and the budget for 2018 if the tax is not approved.