- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - A dispute among Phoenix-area cities over how to split more than $1 billion in state revenue is far from reaching a resolution.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns voted last month to seek special legislation next year to address what has been a sore spot for months. A majority of the state’s 91 municipalities are endorsing this new measure, the Arizona Republic reported (https://bit.ly/1ee6pDm).

The legislation would let cities and communities use data from the state and utility companies for a population-driven formula used to divide up revenue. Typically, the state has made calculations off 2010 census data when doling out funds. The revenue comes from state income tax, sales tax and vehicle fees.

The timing, however, has riled leaders from metro Phoenix suburbs including Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria and Queen Creek. Those cities are in the midst of conducting a mid-decade census, something they are legally authorized to do. Their endeavor is estimated to cost a combined total of $16 million. If the legislation gets approved, those communities would be stuck continuing to pay the U.S. Census Bureau for that effort.

Last year, Phoenix and Mesa blocked similar legislation, but they have changed their viewpoint since then. The cities, which are pursuing their own census, could get smaller shares of state revenue. Phoenix, which gets $450 million a year, could lose $8 million annually. Mesa could lose $2 million annually.

According to several city officials, Phoenix and Mesa’s original opposition is what spurred them to commit to a mid-decade census project. Now, seven cities want other communities to help them cover the cost of the census project.

Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexen is among the officials not on board with that idea. “For Lake Havasu City to say we’re going to compensate you for a decision that was never going to benefit us in the first place - that’s a real struggle for us,” Nexen recently told members of the league’s executive committee.

The city of Gilbert has paid $1.6 million so far for a mid-decade census, and it is expecting to spend another $2.6 million. Mayor John Lewis said his city and other communities have gotten threats that they could be blackballed in regional groups like the Maricopa Association of Governments for their census effort. He said it’s been an “ugly last couple of months.”

“I’m not sure if everything is going forward … that the seven census cities are still going to be listened to,” Lewis said. “Because we certainly haven’t been.”


Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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