The Gilbert Town Council passed its preliminary fiscal year 2022-23 secondary property tax levy and budget, both at record-high amounts, but only after Council Member Laurin Hendrix made an issue of how the tax rate is figured.

Council passed a $29.6 million levy and a $1.67 billion budget on 5-2 votes with Hendrix and Vice Mayor Aimee Yentes voting in dissent. The FY 2021-22 levy was $27.75 million and budget was $988.25 million. The tax rate will remain at $0.99 per $100 assessed valuation for the fifth consecutive year.

During the hearing on the levy, Hendrix pointedly asked Budget Director Kelly Pfost a series of questions on how the secondary property tax rate is figured, at one point asking Town Manager Patrick Banger if someone better could answer the question. Banger referred Hendrix back to Pfost.

Mayor Brigette Peterson subsequently sharply rebuked Hendrix for his treatment of Pfost, who Peterson said does “an amazing job for this community.”

Pfost said staff is working at council’s direction to keep the rate at $0.99 per $100 valuation and that the town has been able to do so by the timing of its bond sales.

By state law, a secondary property tax can only be charged to residents with voter approval, and the funds can only be used to pay down the debt on those voter-approved projects.

However, Hendrix said the assessed valuation in town can only known early each calendar year, which he said meant the town was making keeping the rate steady more important than what the town’s actual needs are.

He then accused town officials of using that rate stability to keep the money flowing into town coffers rather than for projects that were actually needed. He said the town was gaslighting voters.

Peterson, saying she knew this argument was coming, had her own property tax bill projected at the meeting along with similarly valued homes in Glendale and Chandler to show how little the tax bill goes up with valuation increases and how little she pays against residents of other cities. Peterson referenced Gilbert having no primary property tax, as most cities do.

“We have the same discussion every year in Gilbert, and it’s ideological versus logical,” she said. “I’m tired of it.”

The levy and budget have passed on 5-2 votes for several years running.

Peterson praised the town for what it is able to do with less tax collection than its neighboring cities.

The budget passed with little discussion with Peterson noting council discussed the budget at a previous study session.

While the $1.67 billion budget represents an increase of $682.59 million, or 69.07%, from this year’s budget, the majority of it and almost all of the increase is in capital improvement projects. Gilbert includes all of the future money to be spent in coming years on projects that are under way during the fiscal year, Pfost noted to council in the April 27 study session.

Council will consider final approval June 14.

Earlier in the meeting, council also approved the capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2023-32 on a 5-2 vote with Hendrix and Yentes dissenting.