Council approves sales tax increase

Douglas’ new sales/use tax is set to go into effect Sept. 1.

By a vote of 5-2, the Douglas City Council gave its final blessing to a 1-cent sales tax increase and a 2-cent bed tax hike during a special meeting on Monday, July 29.

With the combined city, county and state tax, Beginning Sept. 1, Douglas will now have a 9.9 percent tax, the highest in Cochise County.

It is anticipated the tax will generate a about $1.4 million extra in revenue, which will be used for raises for city employees as well as emergency equipment for the Douglas Fire and Police Departments. It will also be used to help fund a new school resource officer as well as provide upgrades to city recreational facilities, and help design and develop G Avenue’s downtown streetscape.

City officials contend the average person living in Douglas will spend an additional $3.86 per month after the tax is implemented.

The bed tax will be collected from visitors and anyone who rents for 30 days or less.

In his presentation to the council, Douglas City Treasurer Luis Pedroza announced the city is lined up to receive a $1.8 million grant which will be used for the runway at the Douglas Municipal Airport.

“With that comes a 10 percent match so that is one of the proposed uses” for the increased revenue, Pedroza said.

Local residents Tanya and Jesus Duarte as well as former Mayor Dr. Mike Gomez and former councilman Danny Morales asked the council to reconsider the tax increase during the call to the public.

“We all know this tax increase will more than likely get approved regardless of what the residents of Douglas want,” Tanya said. “We’ve all learned that our voices don’t matter. We also know there has been severe misuse of funds throughout the last couple years. The residents of Douglas should not have to be forced to pay for the misuse of our money. This increase should not be approved. I don’t think the taxes should be increased.”

“‘Taxation without representation.’ You guys know where that came from and what happened at the birth of our nation,” Jesus Duarte said. “We showed up here to a public hearing and we were not allowed to speak. Stop misusing our money. When we see adversity in Douglas we buckle up and make do with what we have. Show us that we can have confidence in you. Work with the current tax rate that you have. Show us you are going to respect our money, use it properly and bring it back next year. Put it on the ballot and see what people want. We oppose this tax.”

Morales stated in his remarks that, “Trust is one of the most valuable assets that you can earn as a public office holder and unfortunately there is a lack of trust with this whole body. What is happening here is not good, strategic thinking. Address the issues first, gain the trust first and then you can go and ask the constituents (about a tax increase) when you actually have a tax base to raise taxes on.”

Councilman Mitch Lindemann moved to approve the tax hikes, seconded by Jose Grijalva. Lindemann, Grijalva as well as Mayor Robert Uribe and council members Ray Shelton and Cesar Soto all voted in favor, while Margaret Morales and Donnie Huish voted against.

Lindemann stated he feels this move will benefit Douglas down the road.

“Elected officials are elected to make the hard decisions. We make many of those decisions based on facts not popular opinion,” he said. “Officials are elected to represent their wards, but also expected to collectively guide the city as a whole. Ultimately, what is sound policy for the city will be good for the wards.”

Huish said right up to the start of the meeting he was receiving calls from concerned citizens regarding the sales tax increase.

“I see the needs, but I also understand we could probably do a better job with what we have and make the impact a little less on the dear citizens of Douglas,” he said.

“We need to be prepared for the future, especially when the new port of entry comes,” Shelton said regarding the increase. “I think we need to be more progressive than we have in the past. To some extent we have been complacent.”

The mayor praised Pedroza and the finance committee. “I am proud to vote in favor of this proposal because I know that you (Mr. Pedroza) worked in the city’s best interest. You worked with the finance committee so my vote is a resounding yes.”

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