/ Modified feb 8, 2024 8:53 a.m.

Legal questions arise over City of Tucson’s call for a special tax election in August

State law and Tucson’s city charter are at odds over the issue of calling elections for the approval of new taxes.

360 tucson chambers city hall City of Tucson's council chambers in downtown.
AZPM Staff

A move from the Tucson City Council Tuesday night means Tucsonans could be facing a new sales tax. But ongoing disputes over who controls local elections have to be resolved before any more details on the tax can be formed.

The uncertainty comes from conflicting laws on when a city can call an election to approve new taxes. According to City Attorney Mike Rankin, a state statute passed in 2017 dictates a city can only hold that type of election in November of an even-numbered year.

But Tucson wants to hold that election in August, and city officials are saying the city charter allows them to do so.

City Attorney Mike Rankin said he thinks a previous decision by the Arizona Supreme Court “already answers” the legality question.

“Previously, the legislature tried to force the City of Tucson to have its council elections in even-numbered years instead of odd-numbered years. And we went to the Arizona Supreme Court and they said no, the city can choose to have its own local elections, off-cycle from the state election,” he said.

Rankin said Tuesday’s decision to call an election is a preemptive measure.

“Normally, it would be only three or four months before that date. This is just acting earlier than normal, so we can bring this legal issue to a head and make sure we can actually go forward with an election,” he said.

Currently, the only description of the tax comes from a Feb. 6 Mayor and Council Communication.

The tax will fund “community investments to promote quality of life for our residents and businesses,” it reads.

According to Rankin, the election will be both vote-by-mail and in-person.

Rankin said Tucsonans can expect more clarity on the tax within the next two months. If the legal issues are resolved, the election is scheduled for Aug. 6.

MORE: News, Tucson
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