Home » Government » Public hearings on sales tax, group homes and utility facilities fill May 24 City Council agenda

Public hearings on sales tax, group homes and utility facilities fill May 24 City Council agenda

Overlooking the Globe cemetery. Photo by LCGross

Members of the Globe City Council: Mayor Al Gameros, Vice Mayor Mike Stapleton (District 4), and Council members Freddy Rios (District 1), Mike Pastor (District 2), Jesse Leetham (District 3), Mariano Gonzalez (District 5), and Fernando Shipley (District 6). All members were in attendance at this meeting.

Council approves sales tax hike after hearing public comments against

In a lengthy public hearing, Globe residents spoke against a proposed 1% hike to the City’s sales tax. After the hearing, Council voted to approve the increase, citing the need for visionary leadership in the long-term best interests of the City.

The change to the City tax code increases the sales tax by 1% – from the current 2.3% to 3.3% – and excludes retail food for home consumption. The proposed effective date is August 1.

The rationale for the tax is to bring in revenue from non-residents – such as tourists and out-of-town workers – who place a burden on City resources but don’t currently contribute to paying for them.

City Manager Paul Jepson explained that although Globe’s population is 7,249 (according to the last census), the City additionally serves more than 30,000 travelers and visitors every day. These people consume City services but provide no additional revenue except through sales tax. Jepson said 73% of the City’s sales tax revenues come from travelers and visitors.

Jepson emphasized that the burden of the higher sales tax would fall mostly on non-residents. For every extra dollar people in Globe will pay, Jepson said, the City would bring in an additional three dollars from outside.

Jepson said a sales tax increase would allow the City to support quality municipal services by raising revenue from people who are consuming the services, without putting the full burden on the City’s property owners. It’s common for rural cities and towns to have relatively high sales taxes allowing them to capture outside revenue, Jepson said. Arizona cities with populations between 5,000 and 10,000 have an average sales tax of 3.2%.

Jepson said the increase in cost to the average Globe resident will be less than $130 per household or $55 per person annually. This works out to an average of $11 per month per household, or $5 per month per resident.

Jepson said the City pledges not to increase property taxes for the next five years.

Jepson also pointed out that 0.3% of the current City sales tax goes to pay down its PSPRS liability (the City’s public safety retirement program) and doesn’t go toward any other municipal services. The PSPRS portion of the sales tax will sunset at some point when the City has paid its obligation down by 80%, but this is not likely to happen before 2040.

Jepson said the City’s businesses will benefit from the boost to revenue through reduced crime, increased fire protection, and better roads and infrastructure, as well as the City’s “Go to Globe” tourism marketing campaign, local shopping events such as First Fridays, and regional signature events such as the Poppy Fest.

The tax will also help the City make crucial investments, including meeting the SAP objectives of high-quality public safety services, new recreational amenities, growth initiatives, and quality municipal services.

Public comments

Speaking first, Debbie Yerkovich asked whether the increase could be split, with a half percent increase this year and another half percent next year. Jepson said this would be difficult because it takes a while for people to adjust to a new rate.

Yerkovich also asked whether not passing the tax hike would affect the City’s ability to obtain a loan for the new fire station. Jepson said the City would if the tax hike is not passed, the City will have to find another source of funding for the new station. He said if the fire station had to be funded through property taxes, it would necessitate a 40% increase in property taxes.

We don’t want to burden all of the residents of Globe with funding the services that we provide for the pass-through community. So how else can you do this? And this is the only real answer to that question.” Police Chief Dale Walters

Eleven more residents commented on the tax increase either by speaking in person or by submitting written comments. All of them opposed the increase. Most said they felt the timing was wrong because of the state of the economy and high prices. Several also said the measure would hurt low-income people who are already struggling financially.

Several people said they felt the City has been spending too much money or making irresponsible financial decisions, and one said he wants the City to stay the way it is and not to grow.

Several commenters felt the tax increase would deter tourism and people would stop shopping and dining in Globe, which would further harm local businesses that are already struggling. One person felt that while a tax increase might be reasonable in principle, a 1% increase would be extreme at this time.

Some commenters also questioned the City’s calculation of the number of people who drive through.

Councilmember comments

Councilman Gonzalez pointed out that the City has been funding recent projects mostly from federal coffers, state grants, and partners, thereby leveraging City funds. So although the City has been funding a lot of projects in recent months, the cost to the City is not nearly as great as it might seem. However, he said the City does depend on its own revenues to finance its end of these projects, and the sales tax increase will be necessary to make sure these projects can happen as planned.

The gap that I see is if we don’t do this, some of these projects will have to be downsized.” Councilman Mariano Gonzalez

Councilman Shipley pointed out that the City does face some risk of losing revenue streams in the future, and he said “the sales tax will enable us to fight back” against that danger.

With regard to property taxes, Shipley said people sometimes don’t realize that increases in property values don’t translate into higher property tax revenues for the City. When property values go up, the City adjusts the property tax rates so owners’ tax bills stay about the same.

“The City takes what you paid last year, looks at the evaluation, and lowers the percentage so the tax amount stays close to what it was before. So the City has not increased its property tax revenues.” Councilman Fernando Shipley

If the City did want to raise its property tax revenues, Shipley said, it would have to comply with Truth in Taxation laws in order to do that.

Gonzalez said Council needs to look toward the future with optimism as they make this tough decision. He said he sees a bright future for Globe, we should not be afraid of the future, and that Council needs to give hope to the people of Globe and the region. He sees this as an opportunity to improve the City by building on what we have.

“I can’t see one dollar that has been misspent by this Council or this administration…. We don’t control the conditions of the world. The supply chain problem is evident in every project we’re touching right now, and it’s very frustrating. But we didn’t create that. As far as our economy, yes, it is in a problem area. But am I discouraged? I am not. I think we’re doing everything we can the right way, with the right leveraging of all funding that we have access to.” Councilman Mariano Gonzalez

Councilman Rios pointed out that it’s never a good time to raise taxes, and everyone frowns on it. He agreed that much of the City’s spending is coming from partnerships and not just City tax dollars. The councils he has worked on have spent frugally, Rios said. He pointed out the need for vehicles to provide services and the difficulty of keeping professional people in the city. He said we need to offer the amenities of a big city and look toward better times.

We want a quality of life, and quality of life costs money.” Councilman Freddy Rios

Councilman Leetham said he had been totally against the tax hike at first, but now he agrees that it’s best to “rip the bandaid off” and implement the 1% increase now. He pointed out that the sales tax hasn’t been increased since 1999, with the exception of the 0.3% rise approved in 2016, which was needed to pay off the PSPRS liability. He agreed that City departments have been resourceful in finding ways to fund projects without burdening residents, including sources such as CAG, the state legislature, partners, and grants. For example, the community pool is a $5 million project that the City is having to pay only a few hundred thousand dollars for.

“I don’t believe that this can wait any longer.” Councilman Jesse Leetham

Councilman Stapleton agreed that raising taxes is the last thing that anybody wants to do. He said as a businessman, he understands the economy and prices. However, he believes Globe needs to be comparable to other regional communities in the state. He believes a gradual increase isn’t feasible, and in six months it would be the same situation anyway.

“Nobody wants to pay more money into this, but we have to in order to achieve our goals.” Councilman Mike Stapleton

Councilman Shipley pointed out that the same way residents’ costs are going up, the City’s costs are increasing, too. He noted the need to keep employees here so as not to lose them to other employers. The City has to pay its costs regardless of whether it increases taxes or not, and those costs are increasing just like everyone else’s. The only alternative to raising taxes would be to decrease our services, and some people say they want that to happen, “but how many people want to buy the cheapest car out there?” He said Council’s job is to bring a good value.

“My job isn’t to make people happy, my job is to act in their best interests, their best welfare.” Councilman Fernando Shipley

Shipley pointed out that the City’s pipes are 100 years old, and the Fire Department is 110 years old. He said in one city, the residents didn’t want to pay for new sewer lines, and then the sewer lines collapsed.

“It’s not a good investment to lose your good employees. It’s not a good investment to have your sewer lines collapse. It’s not a good investment to have a fire department that doesn’t function or a police department that cannot respond.” Councilman Fernando Shipley

Mayor Gameros said he has many conversations with residents every day, and he has spoken to many people who favor the sales tax increase, even though they didn’t speak tonight. He said the City’s priorities are quality of life, housing and education. He pointed out that in the past, the City spent very little. In 1986, Gameros said, the City’s ladder truck was a 1952 La France. The Fire and Police departments used to keep vehicles running for 40 years and would buy used vehicles, including vehicles with over 100,000 miles, even for public safety. He said the City’s current ladder truck is now 30 years old, and it will cost between $1.2 and $1.5 million to replace.

Gameros pointed out that sales tax revenues have seen a tremendous increase because of larger numbers of people visiting Globe’s businesses, restaurants and bars as a result of economic development efforts. And local businesses have been reaping the benefits.

“This council is pro growth, pro development, and they’ve worked hard at it. We have a vision. We’ve got to look at the whole picture. We’ve got to dream big, and when we dream big, we have to have goals.” Mayor Al Gameros

Gameros said currently residents are footing the bill for services for all the people who visit who don’t live here, and those costs are going up. He emphasized the need to support public safety employees, including police officers and firefighters. Police officers and fire personnel need vehicles that won’t break down when they’re doing their job, as well as increasing amounts of gear and equipment such as body cams for police and bulletproof vests for firefighters. Fire department employees also need to be protected from getting cancer, which is a serious risk in the current fire station. Gameros pointed out the City needs well-trained, well-equipped fire personnel because of the nature of the downtown with its old, fire-prone buildings. And Public Works has been maintaining a large amount of infrastructure and recreational facilities with very few resources.

“It’s never a good time. We need the revenue to sustain the city for the future and move to the next level.” Mayor Al Gameros

Council voted unanimously to approve the increase on a roll call vote.

Public hearing on group homes for handicapped and substance abuse recovery

Council also heard public comments on a proposal to allow group homes for the handicapped and substance abuse recovery residences to be located in residential zoning districts.

Globe’s Zoning Administrator, Dana Burkhardt, explained that a group home is a typical residential home that provides various levels of supervision to certain unrelated individuals, such as seniors and people with disabilities. These facilities can include small assisted living facilities as well as sober living homes.

Burkhardt said cities generally impose specific regulations depending on the type of home, including limiting the number of residents, limiting the number of trips per day, and setting minimum distance separations between homes so these homes don’t become dominant in an area. The minimum separation is usually 1,200 feet, which is what the regulation being proposed for Globe would specify. All parking is required to be on site.

The state specifies that any single-family home is allowed to house up to six unrelated people for developmental disabilities care or elder care. This state law pre-empts local regulations for these specific situations.

Globe currently has four assisted living or group homes for the elderly, mostly in the Crestline area. There is also one on Sutherland in the downtown area.

Group homes in residential areas would serve the disabled, elders and people in recovery only

Burkhardt pointed out that the ordinance currently being considered applies to very specific groups: people with disabilities, the elderly, and people in recovery. The ordinance would not allow a halfway house or anything of the kind.

For group homes for the handicapped, the regulation being proposed would require Department of Health licensing, would limit the number of residents to six (not including staff), and would require approval and registration with the Planning and Zoning Department. All parking would have to be on site. The City would have to abide by Fair Housing Act requirements, so the proposed ordinance also includes language providing for requests for accommodation under the FHA.

Burkhardt said a Globe resident who owns Noftsger Hill School commented that some existing large buildings located in residential areas and the commercial district could accommodate more than six people. These buildings are usually former churches or schools. The Noftsger Hill School owner suggested language to allow for group homes in these larger buildings to have more residents, including language to address traffic and parking concerns.

P&Z recommended Council approve the ordinance with regard to group homes for the handicapped, including the proposed language for large buildings.

With regard to recovery residences, the language of the new ordinance allows these residences by conditional use permit only. The limitation on a number of residents, parking, and all other criteria would all be the same as for the group homes for the handicapped. However, recovery residences would also have to abide by stringent provisions defined by the state Department of Health.

Bill Sims, Globe’s City Attorney, pointed out that the City will not be regulating these facilities – they will be regulated by the state legislature. The City will not be dealing with the facilities’ actual operations. Sims said by law, houses with five people or less have to be treated as families under the Fair Housing Act. He said the City has to balance the needs of the community with the needs of individuals, and those individuals have a right to be in their homes under the Fair Housing Act.

A citizen review meeting was held on May 9. The only comments received were the letter from the owner of Noftsger Hill and another letter from a resident who opposes locating group homes in residential neighborhoods. P&Z recommends adopting the ordinance.

Chief Walters speaks in favor of group home proposal

Police Chief Dale Walters said the City needs facilities for people who have substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as housing for elders. He said in his 30-plus years of police work, it’s been his experience that the benefits of a properly run facility far outweigh any negatives. He said it all depends on the quality of people who are running them, and this can be governed through an ordinance.

Walters said when he worked in Chandler, there was a large facility for people with heavy drug addiction, and in 24 years he never saw a single issue there because the facility was so well run. He said group homes for troubled teens do tend to create issues, and drug and alcohol recovery homes can also have issues depending on how they are managed. But he said there have been zero issues with the group homes Globe already has located on the east side of town.

“We have to do something.… The simple fact of the matter is I’ve been here for almost four years. I cannot count all the overdoses and the dead kids that I’ve dealt with in this small community in that amount of time. I can’t tell you how many people I deal with on a daily basis, or my employees deal with on a daily basis, that have substance abuse issues, mental health issues.” Chief Dale Walters

Walters recommended that the ordinance include a provision enabling the City to revoke a home’s charter or permit if necessary and that the City should also provide education for the people running the home.

Public comments generally favor proposal

Nine residents commented during the public hearing, generally in favor of the proposal. They pointed out that a need exists in the community and that these facilities can provide important services benefiting the community as well as the individuals.

One person who was previously a site manager for a halfway house in Sunnyslope said the facilities being proposed are highly regulated and monitored, and with proper planning and execution, and with the City as a partner, they can help people get clean and save lives.

“Drugs are here. They’re not going to go away. They’re not.… But what is on the grow right now is recovery. And recovery spreads through a community like drugs do, too.” Paul M.

Another individual pointed out that if people are concerned about having something like this in their backyard, “it’s already there,” given that we have drug addicts out in the streets and elders losing their homes.

“It’s hard to change. They need a place to change. We as a community can try to give them a place to change, or we can turn our backs on them and let them continue to die in overdoses.” Kimberly P.

Amanda Fenton, speaking in support, pointed out that La Questa helped a lot of people who are now major contributors to the community, and said she feels it would be wonderful to have a place like that.

Another commenter said that in her opinion, there aren’t enough qualified people in the community to staff a facility. She said the Community Bridges facility had not been able to find enough straight people to run it.

“I’m all for these people getting help, but they need to get real help.” Marie R.

A person who sent an anonymous text said they had worked in the substance abuse recovery field for 30 years and was impressed with the City’s willingness to address this issue.

Lisa Brazil commented that no one opposes providing these services, but she is concerned about whether people will be coming from outside the county, and wants the City to be sure there are support services in place.

A few commenters addressed the Noftsger Hill School specifically, opposing using it as a group home. However, Dana Burkhardt clarified that the resolution under consideration is not about any specific location, it is only about establishing a process and conditions for people to submit applications. Those specific applications will then have to be reviewed by Planning & Zoning.

Council comments

Mayor Gameros said many people have no access to help they need, and that’s why they’re on the street and are dying.

“We need this type of facility to help these people. We can’t just look down at them.… If we don’t care enough to reach out and help somebody and pull them forward, then we’re the ones that are failing. We are failing our community if we don’t help somebody out in time of need.” Mayor Al Gameros

Councilmen Rios, Shipley, and Stapleton spoke in favor of the proposal. It will come back for approval at a future Council meeting.

Public hearing on locating utility facilities in transitional and commercial zoning districts

Council opened a public hearing regarding a conditional use permit that would allow utility facilities to be located in the transitional and commercial zoning districts. Both public and private utilities would be covered.

Dana Burkhardt explained that someone had approached the City with a proposal to develop utility facilities in the commercial zoning district. Residential districts already allow utility facilities, but the commercial district does not. These facilities could include water treatment, wastewater, and electrical and natural gas facilities. Burkhardt said most communities do allow this, and it’s typically done through a conditional use permit.

Burkhardt said the purpose of the new language is only to open up the possibility for utilities to be built in the commercial district as well as in residential districts. The language would be the same as the existing language for residential zoning districts. Utility companies would still have to come before P&Z for approval, and they would still be subject to state requirements and regulations.

A citizen review meeting was held on May 9, and no one spoke to the issue. No public comment has been received prior to tonight’s meeting, Burkhardt said. 

Resident Bonnie Steadman asked for clarification about how this proposal would affect permits for existing businesses, and Burkhardt explained that the intent isn’t to affect any existing businesses that isn’t up to code. It is only intended to allow utility companies to build new facilities in the commercial district.

There were no other public comments.

The Planning and Zoning Department recommended approval. The measure will come back for approval at a future Council meeting.

Eligibility requirements for Globe Cemetery to change temporarily

Council approved an emergency declaration regarding the eligibility requirements for the City of Globe Cemetery. For the next six months, only Globe residents or their first-degree relatives will be able to purchase plots in the cemetery.

Paul Jepson explained that the City is having growing pains at the cemetery. Very few of the remaining plots are unsold, and only 10 sites are currently available for sale.

“It’s very important for people who have a lifelong community in Globe and live in Globe to spend their eternity in Globe, and we want to accommodate that.” City Manager Paul Jepson

Jepson said the City needs short, medium, and long-term fixes. The City plans to lay out one section (section 8) to create 40 to 50 new sites, which will last for about five years. It will take about six months to create those sites. To get through the next six months, the City would like to reserve the 10 available plots for residents or first-degree relatives of residents. The emergency declaration creates those restrictions.

Jepson said part of the problem is that people from out of town are buying plots here because they’re less expensive than in many other areas. The City plans to update its fee schedule soon, which should reduce out-of-town people buying here. In the long-range, the City will be meeting with a cemetery planner who will prepare a 20-year plan.

John Angulo, Public Works Director, explained that Globe does allow people who have a current single-burial plot to dig deeper and put two caskets in that one plot. Also, because the plots are large enough, cremation urns can be put at the head or foot of a casket that is currently in place. Angulo said the City has also been utilizing old walkways as space for urns, and that has helped relieve the pressure on space.

No public comment on updates to City’s fee schedule

Council also considered and invited public comment regarding an update to the City’s fee schedule to include community pool fees and certain bank transaction fees.

Jepson explained that these fees are for access to the community pool once it opens and, separately, for transaction fees when people use a credit card to pay for permits. In this case, the fee that the credit card company charges will be passed on to the customer, and there will be no surcharges. These are both new fees.

There had been no comments on the fees from the public prior to tonight’s meeting, and during tonight’s public hearing, no comments were received.

Council will vote on the fees at a future meeting.

Motions approved

Council also approved motions for the following:

  • Accounts payable in the amount of $455,970.84
  • A memorandum of understanding with other state agencies involved in sharing license plate recognition data
  • A mutual agreement with Operation Underground Railroad, including the donation of a Data Pilot valued at $6,680

To view this meeting online, visit here.  

To view documents related to this meeting, click here.  

Full minutes can be found by going to the City Hall website and clicking on Agendas/Minutes in the bottom left-hand corner.

The Globe City Council meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. The meetings are currently open to the public at 50% capacity. Members of the public are requested to wear a mask except when seated. Seating is limited to allow for social distancing.

Members of the public can also participate in City of Globe public meetings by viewing the meeting live on YouTube. To view the Council meeting live stream, go to the City of Globe’s YouTube channel (search for City of Globe Arizona). Or click on the “Live Stream on YouTube” link at the top of www.globeaz.gov.

To speak to agenda items before or during the meeting, you can call or text (928) 200-0154 or send an email to council@globeaz.gov. If you desire to speak to the Council during an agenda item.

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