A variety of possibilities exist for creativity and innovation within a previously unavailable environment in the State of Arizona. As special taxing districts, municipalities, and other political subdivisions deal with the challenges associated with constantly eroding resources and ever increasing costs of doing business.
A number of options exist on both sides of the ledger for addressing this reality, with the most effective approach combining attention bilaterally. While raising revenue beyond available property tax levies are frequently limited in scope, a variety of methods may be employed to reduce the costs of doing business. Perhaps the most common are mergers, consolidations, and the formation of a Joint Powers Authority. The challenges associated with the first two operations are the requirements of blending revenues and tax rates. Within a merger, one organization is essentially absorbed by another agency and moves on with one mil rate generated from the balancing of two; creating the potential for substantial inequity if the two communities did not maintain similar tax rates. Likewise, when consolidating agencies, the same potential for community subsidies exists when two organizations combine to form one 'new entity'. With a Joint Powers Authority, these challenges can be avoided, as each partner agency maintains the ability to levy their own taxes and at their established tax rates. Over the last several years, several of us have worked diligently to create the most versatile and flexible JPA's possible for the State of Arizona.
In general terms, joint powers are exercised when the public officials of two or more agencies agree to create another legal entity or establish a joint approach to work on a common problem, fund a project, or act as a representative body for a specific activity. Agencies that can exercise joint powers include federal agencies, state departments, counties, cities, special districts, school districts, redevelopment agencies, and even other joint powers organizations. An Arizona agency can even share joint powers with an agency in another state. JPAs commonly include significant projects including: groundwater management, road construction, habitat conservation, airport expansion, stadium construction, mental health facilities construction, educational programs, employee benefits services, insurance coverage, and regional transportation projects; but may also include fairly simplistic programs ranging from joint funding of an individual employee's position to a specific educational program.
The JPA's we have worked to make possible within our state opens the door to an almost endless line of possibilities ranging from very minor projects to the formation of completely new entities. As we continue to address the aforementioned challenges all public agencies are compelled to deal with in the current climate, we are well positioned to move to the next step and move well beyond the constraints of the past!