After a concerted effort by ATRA, the Senate removed H2060 (municipal fire; emergency services; fee) from the third read calendar shortly before Wednesday’s floor session. The bill is aimed at allowing Paradise Valley to impose a fee on property tax owners in order to fund emergency medical services in the town. ATRA and other critics have voiced concerns that the fee is merely a property tax masquerading in sheep’s clothing, and argue that the legislation sets a precedent that may encourage other municipalities to ask the Legislature to impose a fee to allow them to avoid directly increasing taxes on residents. Additionally, one lobbyist opposing the bill told our report that other cities may be able to utilize the current language. But Brophy McGee, the bill’s sponsor, laughed off that suggestion: “Well, good luck, based on all the restrictions we’ve built into it.” Chief among the restriction is that the fee for services is limited to municipalities with less than 20,000 residents that currently do not levy a primary property tax, which she said limit it to PV, Litchfield Park and “some other small towns.” Additionally, the fee can only be imposed if it is approve by voters.
Beyond ATRA’s objections about the precedence the legislation sets, the lobbyist said H2060 was pulled from the calendar after Biggs, Gould and Murphy learned that the fee would be applied to private and parochial schools. The bill carves out exemptions for public and charted schools, as well as “the square footage of the sanctuary of any church or religious institution,” but not any other church property, including school facilities. Brophy McGee told our reporter that the language is what was requested by the PV council, and noted that those properties previously paid an emergency services fee when the town contracted with Rural/Metro services. (The town had partnered with Scottsdale to receive Rural/Metro services. When Scottsdale formed its own fire department in 2005, PV then contracted with Phoenix fire for emergency services and issued bonds to construct two Phoenix fire stations to accommodate the services.) “Churches burn, schools burn 365 days a year…. This is the town’s wishes, and it’s their decision.” Brophy McGee’s original emergency services bill, HB2470 (municipal fire protection fee), cleared mil-pub but failed to receive a hearing in gov.
The lobbyist griped that H2060 “looks like a tax, quacks like a tax and basically is a tax… [but] never went through a bona fide tax committee,” as it was a striker in pub-hu ser. And though the fate of the bill is unclear – it hasn’t yet reappeared on a third read calendar – the lobbyist characterized it as “potential veto bait” because the fee would be applied to churches and parochial schools. “That makes it radioactive,” the lobbyist said.