You’ve heard it before, the onerous and regressive food tax Scottsdale imposed upon its residents for over 60 years. Mostly likely you don’t notice it because it doesn’t add up to that much – about $80 dollars a year for grocery shoppers.
Still, it can be a month’s groceries for the less fortunate and fixed-income residents in Scottsdale.
On March 17, your city council will decide the fate of the food tax. We could leave it as is, reduce a portion or slowly wean us off it by putting a percentage into the Capital Projects fund each year until it’s out of the general fund.
The latter is what former Councilman David Smith came up with a few years ago and the council agreed.
Recently, and I don’t know who advanced it, the council agenda had an item to put the portion of the food tax from Capital Projects back into the general fund.
All sorts of reasons were put forth, from needing the money to cover an ominous public safety retirement liability in 2025 to covering inflationary costs to the city. Frankly, I was shocked to see it there as no one from staff talked to me about it beforehand. I was further shocked when the council voted to put it back. It was a food tax coup of sorts. That was not the intention of the former council, and I had promised David I would work towards removing it, so I voted no.
The Mayor asked that we put the question on a future agenda; council agreed, and so now we are here.
On the 17th, we have the chance to finally remove the food tax once and for all. Scottsdale does not need the revenue it generates – about $12 million a year.
We are in the black as the economy has continually improved with Scottsdale’s sales tax revenue going up about 8.4 percent a year since 2016.
Some will argue we need it to purchase more land for the Preserve, but we will not get the discounted price of land on the last two parcels that we got for the rest of the Preserve. That was the deal with the State Trust Land Dept. The city has also passed a $320-million dollar bond issue and a 0.1 percent transportation tax that further covers our infrastructure costs. One could argue that we are now collecting a tax that is simply not needed, a tax on food that most other cities do not tax at all.
I will be voting to remove the food tax for home consumption on the 17th of March and if you agree it’s time has come I urge you to let the council know how you feel.
-Guy Phillips is a member of the Scottsdale City Council.