Spend and Tax



A Saturday article in the Scottsdale Republic cites city councilwoman (and Wells Fargo executive) Linda Milhaven as proposing an increase in the Scottsdale’s city sales tax to,

“…help bankroll future arts and culture projects that currently lack funding.”

This is on top of a proposed quarter-BILLION dollar bond package (and associated property tax increase) proposal for which Mayor Jim Lane has been clamoring.

Fortunately, the Republic also notes that Milhaven is,

“… heavily invested in public art as the former chairwoman of the Scottsdale Cultural Council board of trustees.”

In that capacity, Milhaven hired current SCC CEO Bill Banchs, the scourge of Scottsdale’s arts and culture scene and the person most directly responsible for the six-year SCC fundraising disaster that followed.

That stumble off the fundraising cliff has ensured that SCC will continue their path away from the originally-envisioned sustainable model, and keep Banchs’s grubby hands outstretched toward the city treasury for the Cultural Council’s annual $4 million-plus taxpayer subsidy…not to mention his own $250,000 salary and $500,000 expense account.

The Republic quotes Milhaven:

“I’d really like to see this move quickly…Our sales tax is among the lowest in the region.

Now THERE’S a reason to raise taxes (they are too low?) and to do it “quickly” (while winter tourism receipts are up and voters aren’t paying attention).

I also note that Milhaven doesn’t identify any specific needs, citing only “future projects that lack funding.” In other words, ‘Just trust me.’ Yeah.

The Republic did a light breakdown of how our sales taxes are spent:

In Scottsdale, the transaction-privilege tax, commonly called a sales tax, pays for basic city services such as police and fire protection and parks maintenance.

A portion of the revenue goes toward specific costs. For example, one-eighth goes toward transportation needs, while an additional one-fifth of taxes helps pay for the city’s purchase of land for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. One-sixteenth of revenues goes toward public-safety costs, according to the city.

What the Republic doesn’t tell you is that Milhaven, Lane and the rest of the city council (save Littlefield) have chronically underfunded the “Capital Improvement Projects” fund for the past five or six years. Instead, they used that money to ‘balance’ the budget (by definition, a balanced budget has receipts equal to expenses).

This year, of course, they weren’t even able to accomplish that, having to transfer money from reserves to cover an $8 million deficit, which Campaign Lane steadfastly denied existed and the Cronkite School-staffed Republic never investigated. So much for journalism. Meanwhile Scottsdale’s infrastructure crumbles.

The Republic also cites:

Milhaven noted that a good chunk of the revenue is generated by non-residents, who shop at the city’s stores and dine at local restaurants.

This is a philosophy that leads directly to Milhaven’s previous public comments (in response to criticism from Yours Truly) that,

“This is not taxpayer money. It’s money generated by the hospitality industry, being spent to support the hospitality industry.”

If it goes into the city treasury, it is taxpayer money regardless of the source. And no, Milhaven isn’t stupid. She knows that, in spite of her the spin to the contrary.

And while we are strolling down short-term memory lane, Milhaven was also the chief denier of city audit findings unfavorable to her Cultural Council’s accountability, ridiculously parsing the language of the audit report to read the polar opposite. With people like her in charge, it’s no wonder our bank-driven national economy is such a mess.

Ironically, the Quarter-Billion Dollar Man is critical of Milhaven’s sales tax proposal:

Mayor Jim Lane said he didn’t know enough about Milhaven’s proposal to comment, but is generally “not really looking to increase the sales tax.” He noted that any bonds approved by voters also would raise taxes.

“We’re still having to go through the assessment on the property-tax increase that would be associated with any kind of bond before voters,” Lane said.

So, Lane doesn’t like a sales tax increase, but a property tax increase is OK? How is that any different? I’d say that it’s worse!

Even the folks Lane empaneled to sell the bond package to the voters recognize that Scottsdale is falling behind on basic maintenance:

Bill Heckman, chairman of the Scottsdale Bond Task Force, said it is “very clear” that the city’s assets, including roads, buildings and other infrastructure, are continuing to depreciate, which is why a bond election may be needed at this time.

However, Heckman and I differ on that the need to have a bond. I believe basic maintenance of infrastructure should be accomplished through properly accounting for it as part of the regular budget process. It should be funded by setting aside a portion of tax receipts in advance of those needs.

We haven’t been able to do that because Lane, Milhaven, and the Cartel of Commerce have been giving it away to their cronies like the PGA ($15 million last year), Phil Mickelson ($2.2 million) and the Cultural Council ($4 million-plus). If we’d stop that, we might avoid going down the path blazed by Fountain Hills recently, with diversion of funds and bonding to pave their streets.

Oh, and speaking of the Cultural Council, did I mention that Banchs and ‘his’ board have asked for $10 million worth of the bond to spruce up the facades of the city-owned buildings they occupy for free? They may actually get a double-dip out of this!



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