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Town votes to raise taxes

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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The Camp Verde Town Council voted 6-1 to raise the town's sales tax rate from 2 percent to 3 percent at its May 16 meeting.

The tax will still not apply to items such as food purchased at a grocery store.

The lone Opposing vote to the tax proposal was cast by Mayor Bob Burnside, who has pointed out that a similar recent measure on the ballot was defeated by voters and that he didn't feel the Town Council should impose higher taxes while many are going through trying economic times.

Councilwoman Carol German argued that the one-penny-per-dollar increase would have little serious impact on Camp Verde families and that much of the revenue generated would come from tourists and other out-of-towners stopping to buy things out at "hamburger junction."

"I wish we had done this a year and a half ago," German said.

German said if they had, they would be seeing the results of increased revenue now. As it is, German said that the public needs to realize that it's going to take "months and months" before the town actually sees a cent of the increased revenue.

It's those expectations that worried Vice Mayor Bob Kovacovich.

"I think with a higher tax it's going to increase expectations," Kovacovich said. "People are going to expect things, and we can't meet higher expectations."

Instead, the $750,000 in expected increased revenue will go to help the town draw down the amount of deficit spending that would be required to keep the town operating over the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which begins Sunday, July 1.

Town Manager Russ Martin said some of the money could be used to fill some vacant staff positions and to advance some capital projects the town has put off due to lack of funding.

While the town may not have an official "hiring freeze" in effect, it has been leaving positions open as they are vacated; the remaining staff has had to pick up what slack they can.

Martin said the tax increase would be a way "to move the town forward," but with a caveat.

"It's not an end-solution to our difficulties," Martin said.

The new tax revenue would go into the town's general fund.

Councilwoman Robin Whatley said that some of the money needed to be put to visible use.

"People need to see that things are happening," Whatley said. "We need to repair our roads. We're so far behind on our roads I don't even know what to tell you."

The vote on the tax issue followed a public hearing in which a handful of residents expressed both opposition and support for the tax increase.

"The town has been horribly understaffed, and you're starting to see it in the services they offer," Irene Peoble said.

Resident George Young said he felt the matter should be decided by the voters.

"Put it to a vote, and let them decide," Young said.

The tax increase brings Camp Verde in line with the sales tax levied by other communities in the Verde Valley.

Councilman Bruce George pointed out that another 1 cent sales tax hike, imposed by the state, is soon set to expire.

The tax goes into effect July 1.

Copyright 2012 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: May 23, 2012

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