Douglas may become the highest taxed city in Cochise County if the City Council proceeds with a plan to raise the sales-tax rate from 2.8 percent to 3.8 percent on Oct. 1, 2019. Renters and hotel guests will also see the bed tax is going to double from 2 percent to 4 percent.
The Council moved forward to increase the levy by 1 percent by passing the second of three required readings at its regular monthly meeting held July 10 in City Hall.
The meeting included the final adoption of the annual budget for fiscal year 2019/2020 which passed 5-2 with council members Margaret Morales and Donnie Huish voting against it.
The final reading of the ordinance to authorize the tax hike is scheduled for the Aug. 14 city council meeting.
Meanwhile the council also gave a nod to the 2020-21 fiscal year budget of $40.44 million, which is a $2.9 million decrease in overall revenue and expenses compared to FY 2019-20.
Included in the new budget is $36.7 million in revenue plus $3.73 million from various cost and fund allocation transfers, the fund balance of the federal Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF), money from capital projects, sanitation and the use of capital lease proceeds.
This final budget is contingent on the passage of the proposed sales/use tax as well as a doubling of the bed tax from 2 percent to 4 percent. Without elaboration, the executive summary also references floating a bond issue for streets and other capital projects for the November 2020 election.
“With the one-cent sales tax increase the city intends to fund various personnel needs, existing employee compensation and funding various community projects as well as public safety and other departmental needs,” said Douglas’ City Treasurer Luis Pedroza.
With the proposed higher sales tax anyone retail shopping in Douglas can expect to pay 9.9 percent on taxable transactions that includes a 5.6 percent state sales tax, 0.5 percent county sales tax and 3.8 percent city sales tax. Douglas would also become the highest taxed city in Cochise County ahead of Benson, Tombstone, and Bisbee who are all at 9.6 percent; Willcox 9.1 percent; and Sierra Vista 8.05 percent.
Compared however, to other cities around the state with a population of less than 40,000, the proposed sales tax would make Douglas the eighth highest in the state (See graphic for city tax rates and how Douglas compares).
The proposed tax increase did come with some opposition from several members of the community. Mark Studer, owner of B&D Lumber in Douglas, Bisbee and Sierra Vista, expressed his concerns at a public hearing.
Studer referenced the tax on items exceeding $10,000 that are purchased. Pedroza explained that currently the rate is 2.8 percent on a single item up to that amount and 1.8 percent on any amount above that. With the proposed increase those numbers would change to 3.8 percent up to $10,000 and 2.8 percent on amounts above that.
Pedroza noted this was a single item tax; not a transaction tax. Councilman Mitch Lindemann asked about changing the verbiage to transaction instead of single item. Pedroza responded he could look into that and get back to the city council.
Dr. Mike Gomez, former mayor and former councilwoman Olga Robles expressed displeasure, encouraging the mayor and council to find other ways to balance the city budget without raising taxes.
Adam Brake, executive director at the Haven of Douglas, who also serves on the City Finance Committee, said he wasn’t happy about recommending a raise in taxes but that this was something that needed to be done.
“We met for hours debating this,” he said. “It was like WrestleMania in there. We reviewed the whole budget and I do want to encourage you guys to continue with our recommendation.”
Brake said he has seen municipalities declare bankruptcy and if a city should declare bankruptcy chances are taxes would be raised to help get them out of bankruptcy.
“A lot of that money collected would not go to the city it would go towards the debt,” he said. “We have a 100 percent revenue problem here. It’s an ugly picture we face if we don’t start creating some serious revenue.”
Councilman Huish said he has received a number of comments from people not only in his ward, but also throughout the community stating they are uncomfortable with the proposed increase for “a number of reasons.”
“One of those being the state of the current economy and the second being the lack of confidence with the city right now in how we would spend it,” he said. “I think we have spelled it out very clearly on how we would do that. The confidence level is not there right now. Many of them stated they would be more supportive if they felt more comfortable. I’m going to listen to them as I normally do and vote no on this.”
Councilman Ray Shelton said he too talked to a number of people who were in favor of the proposed increase.
“I’d prefer a half-percent or three-quarters but a full percent, I don’t know,” he said. “I realize all the positive things that can come from this.”
Councilwoman Morales, who heads the finance committee, said, “in good conscience I have to listen to my constituents. I’m not saying we don’t need the things that we need. I understand we need vehicles and equipment and I support that but, in the end, I have to listen to my constituents.”
For more information on the proposed tax increases please see the Citizen Budget Summary at: http://www.douglasaz.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2036/CITIZEN-BUDGET-SUMMARYJune-2019.
Mike Montoya contributed to this article gathering information for the attached graph.
With the start of school just a few weeks away Douglas residents began lining up early Saturday morning hoping to get a free backpack filled with school supplies.
Local businesses Southwest Gas and Northern Pipe Line held its Third Annual Back to School Backpack Event at the Douglas Fire Department on 10th Street.
People began showing up an hour prior to the event kicking off. Even though it was scheduled to run 9 a.m. to 12 noon, 300 backpacks were handed out in less than an hour forcing organizers to pack up two hours early.
After the backpacks were distributed, Southwest Gas Operations Manager Jim Creason and Douglas JD Morales, supervisor for the Douglas NPL operations, admitted this was another successful and gratifying event.
Morales and Creason said this year both companies chipped in to purchase the backpacks and school supplies that were handed out to students 6-18 and employees from both companies donated their time and the DFD donated the use of its building.
Sparky was even on hand to greet the students and pose for pictures.
During the event Sandy Ramirez, coordinator for the local Hotshot crew, dropped off additional school supplies that were promptly handed out.
“I was very pleased by what I saw today,” Creason said after the event was over. “This year we used social media, Trading Post to help get the word out. We had a line by 8 o’clock this morning so it was great.”
Creason said it warms his heart to see all the smiles on the kids’ faces as they received their backpacks.
Ramirez estimated about 100 people were already in line he first arrived at the DFD Saturday to set up.
“To see that many people, already in line, can’t help but put a smile on your face,” he said. “We want to do our part to help support the community and help everybody out.”
“It was great because JD and myself were able to bring our kids today and help out the community at the same time,” Creason added. “Overall I thought it was a great event.”
The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) recently installed former Douglas resident Matt Crespin, MPH, RDH, of New Berlin, Wisconsin, as the organization’s 2019-20 president.
Crespin, the first male president of ADHA in the association’s nearly 100-year history, is the son of Sandy and the late Ray Crespin and a 1997 Douglas High School graduate.
He currently serves as associate director of Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, which is affiliated with the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, where he directs both the oral health and early childhood literacy programs along with providing operational support to the entire organization. The oral health program at the Alliance includes the Wisconsin Seal-A-Smile program, Healthy Smiles for Mom and Baby, the Wisconsin Oral Health Coalition.
Matt says he got his interest in dentistry after working one summer as a dental assistant for local (and now retired dentist) Dr. Ed Gomez.
“It peaked my interested and was the reason I went to Marquette University.” Crespin said. “(It) was my intent was to go to dental school there. I ended up going into their dental hygiene program and fell in love with the preventive nature of this field and never ended up going to dental school. I worked in a private practice in a suburb of Milwaukee for four years and have been in my role at Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin since 2006.”
Crespin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health sciences/dental hygiene from Marquette University and received his Community Dental Health certificate from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in 2007. He received his Master of Science degree in public health from A.T. Still University in 2010.
An ADHA member since his graduation in 2002, Crespin has served the association in a wide range of positions, including most recently as president-elect and previously as vice president; District VII trustee; member of the executive and finance committees, committee on minutes review and board policy and procedures committee; and board coach. He also served his constituent and component in numerous leadership roles that include Wisconsin delegate, vice president and speaker of the House. The Wisconsin Dental Hygienists’ Association honored him with the Carol Benson Award for Distinguished Service to Dental Hygiene in 2016.
“It is time that we take the necessary steps to address how our organization is governed to ensure that we appropriately represent the profession,” Crespin said. “I want to continue to see an even higher level of engagement of our membership beyond our elected leaders, delegates and committee members. People want to be a part of something bigger, and being involved and engaging is one way to gain that feeling.”
When asked about his memories of Douglas, Matt said he has a lot of good memories but some that stick out are spending many hours and days with his dad at the golf course and with his mom, sister and family friends at the pool there.
“I also have many fond memories of the many sporting events and teams I participated on during my time at DHS including golf, soccer and tennis,” he said.
According to information Crespin provided to The Dispatch, Matt was featured in Modern Hygienist Magazine in 2007 in an article on men making their mark in dental hygiene. He was also named the Young Hispanic Professional of Greater Milwaukee by the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee and received the Distinguished Alumnus in Dental Hygiene Award from Marquette University in 2009. In 2016 Crespin received the Wisconsin Public Health Association’s Distinguished Service to Public Health Award and the Wisconsin Dental Hygienists’ Association Carol B. Benson Award for Outstanding Service to Dental Hygiene. In 2017 he was selected as one of “Six Dental Hygienist’s You Want to Know” by Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Magazine.
Matt currently lives in Milwaukee with his wife Laura and son Connor and says he enjoys camping, traveling, and cycling.
His father Ray was a longtime educator in Cochise County and served as principal at both Stevenson Elementary and Douglas Junior High before becoming assistant superintendent for DUSD from July 1994 to June 1998 when he left to become superintendent of Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools.
His mom currently lives in Glenview, IL., a suburb of Chicago with his sister Tiffany, her husband David and their two daughters.