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Sales Tax Seen as Vital for Coconino County’s Infrastructure

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Coconino County
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Coconino County is proposing a sales tax increase on the November ballot to fund a backlog of road repairs. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, local officials say Proposition 403 is vital to keep the county’s extensive road network functional. 

An estimated $70 million dollars will be required to repair the most heavily damaged of the nearly 1,000 miles of roads maintained by the county. The tax would amount to 30 cents per 100 dollars spent for the next 20 years.

Art Babbott is the Coconino County supervisor for District  1. He describes the problem as dire.

“If the proposition does not pass we are looking at very significant cuts in service levels for those types of items like snow plowing, grading, chip sealing. At the end of the day you can’t just cut, cut, cut, cut. We have done that and we are at the end of that line,” Babbott says.

Nearly 300 miles of roads on the Navajo Nation are owned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, maintained by Coconino County through a cooperative agreement. Babbott says many are in need of repair.

“Many of these are very important transportation links in tribal communities for school bus routes, for their regional economy,” Babbott says.

In the last several years, state and federal funding for county road repair has been dramatically cut. Revenue from the federal gasoline tax, which funds transportation projects, has also fallen.

Babbott also says that without a funding increase now, the cost of road maintenance could nearly double in five years.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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