The La Paz County Supervisors have approved revising a proposal for an excise tax to be presented to the County Supervisors Association in 2021. At the Board’s Dec. 7 meeting, the Supervisors emphasized this is not the approval of a new tax. It is a revision of an excise tax proposal for the CSA to consider on their 2021 legislative agenda.
The Supervisors noted that any new excise tax would need to be approved by the voters.
The proposal is for a 0.5 percent excise tax to pay off La Paz County’s unfunded liabilities to the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System. The La Paz County Sheriff’s Office currently has enough to fund just 35.31 percent of their current and projected future pension liabilities.
The value of the unfunded liabilities comes to $13.4 million.
The Sheriff’s Office is not alone in having unfunded liabilities with the pension plan. As an example, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has funding for 33.3 percent of their current and projected liabilities. As a result, they are required to contribute the equivalent of 75 percent of their employees’ salaries to the PSPRS each year.
District 1 Supervisor D.L. Wilson said the county is paying off these liabilities to the amount of $1.1 million per year. He said they still have 17 more years of payments, and the annual payment will likely reach $1.7 million per year by the end.
“This is coming from the general fund,” Wilson said. “The taxpayers are already paying for it.”
Under the proposed half-cent excise tax, Wilson said the liabilities could be paid off in seven to eight years, with an expected savings to the county of $4.1 million.
Wilson said the best part of an excise tax is 25 percent of it will be paid by visitors the area. He said this means everyone who lives in or comes to the area will be paying it.
If approved, the new excise tax would not go into effect until after the 1 percent excise tax to pay off the judgement bonds in the Yakima case is ended.
County Finance Director Terry Krukemyer said the idea for an excise tax came out of conversations between Wilson and himself, and added Wilson was the one who took the initiative on it.