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Safford City Hall

Before Safford City Manager Horatio Skeete retired this month, he prepared one last city budget. Monday night the City Council approved that budget.

“In spite of the uncertainty of the upcoming year due to the effects of COVID-19 on our economy, the City begins the fiscal year stronger than it has ever been,” Skeete informed the council in May.

Improving city streets is one focus of the city’s fiscal year 2020-21 budget, which includes $61.3 million in expenses for 2021. Projects include repairs to 8th Street, 14th Avenue and 20th Avenue.

The budget also provides for over $500,000 in added salaries and benefits for city employees. Workers who have been with the city for more than two years will get a $.75 raise over the year, with $.40 of it coming in July and $.35 in January.

The council also held a public hearing on a proposed $8,731, or 3.47 percent, increase in primary property taxes collected over last year. The proposed increase will set primary property taxes on a $100,000 home at $51.35; without it, those taxes would be $49.63.

There were no comments from the public during the hearing.

The public notice of the proposal reads “Notice of Tax Increase,” which as Councilman Arnold Lopez noted, can mislead people into thinking property taxes are going up. Safford Finance Director Alma Valles explained that state law requires that wording in such public notices.

The property tax rate is not increasing; it will stay at its current $.5135 per $100 of assessed value.

The council will vote on the proposed tax levy in their July 13 meeting.

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