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7/10/2014 6:00:00 AM
Mohave County chops tax rate for TV fund
The coffers will still carry a hefty balance

Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - The county's controversial TV district, which one official said this week could be viewed by the public as a "slush fund," will take a slightly smaller bite out of residents' property tax bills.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted this week to cut the tax rate from $.0867 cents per $100 to $.07 cents per $100 of assessed value for 2015. With the cut, the district would raise $1.229 million over the upcoming year to pay for its expenses, which run about $500,000 annually.

That's a $340,000 reduction in the $1.5 million the county has collected annually over the years through the district, which pays for equipment to boost the signal from free over-the-air TV stations in Phoenix and Las Vegas. Local and state law enforcement agencies also use the towers for communication between their officers.

The vote came after a tense discussion about keeping the tax rate at its current level for another year so the growing fund, which currently contains $3 million, could be used to expand the county's emergency management department. In 2012, the board, with permission from the Arizona Legislature, swept about $7 million from the TV district fund to pay the county's jail debt service.

"The taxpayers have been paying three times the value on what they're receiving for years," said Supervisor Steve Moss, District 5. "I think that even though the surplus was put to good use and paying down the debt was a wonderful thing, our legislative responsibility is to make the revenues of the district correspond to the expense of running that district."

Supervisor Buster Johnson, District 3, argued for the current tax rate, noting district money could be used to fund a county-owned communication station so residents with battery-operated televisions or radios can receive information during disasters. Johnson recently asked staff to create a plan for expanding the county's emergency capabilities and purchasing emergency generators.

County Administrator Mike Hendrix said that he has no idea what it would cost to equip the county with its own broadcast system. Under Johnson's direction, Hendrix has asked his staff to budget $1 million for next year to explore what level the county could take its emergency response to in relation to the TV district and come back with financial projections.

"One of the things we have to look at is, depending on the type of disaster we have, can our current capabilities meet that level of disaster," said Hendrix. "And I'm not sure they can. If the entire western United States power grid drops for some reason, and that is a real threat, according to federal emergency management people, can we actually keep our people informed?"

Board Chairwoman Hildy Angius, District 2, questioned the legality of using the money in the TV district for emergency management. Angius said she was told last year that the district was originally enacted to provide emergency communication when she asked about the need for the county to provide entertainment to residents.

"I'm kind of shocked that we don't have anything now, after all these years of the TV district being in place," said Angius. "It didn't come into the conversation when we had more than $6 million in funds to use it for emergency response instead of sweeping it for the jail. This money is all coming from people's pockets. We have too much in the TV district fund and to anyone out there, it sounds like it's a little slush fund."

The county's contract for the TV district is with WECOM, a local telecom business, at a cost of more than $16,200 a month. The company has been in charge of maintenance for the county's television system since 1957. It is unknown how many people in the county use the service, as there is no good way to count the number of viewers.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
Article comment by: I Love Arizona

Slush fund? Are you kidding me? The county is now collecting $1,229,000 now, down from $1,500,000. The article also states that the expenses are $500,000. What happened to the other $729,000? Then the article says that the service provider is paid $16,200 per month. That is $194,400 per year. The residents of Mohave County are paying $1,229,000 for $194,000 in services. That is a lot of overhead, a crazy amount of overhead.

Where is the outrage over this? How come these same people keep getting elected?

Wow, just wow.

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
Article comment by: Listen Up And Eduate Yourselves

If they reduce the rate, that does not mean they are collecting less tax dollars. If the value of property in the district increases, then they may still be increasing the total amount. The bigger question to ask is what was the value for the tax year? That will help you determine how much money is being collected. The total value changes each year.

Don't play the reduce the tax rate = reduced taxes game. Educate yourself.

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014
Article comment by: True disbeliever

When the TV towers and signals were started many years ago this service was paid out of the Boulder Dam Lieu Tax, which at the time was for recreation for all of Mohave County Citizens, the taxpayers did not pay one dime. Along came some new supervisors and low and behold they decided the taxpayers should have to pay for this service so the Lieu Tax money could be used elsewhere. The Lieu Tax brought a service to us that we would not have had if not for this money. At that time and for many years it was a free service.
Many people on fixed income use this TV service. Not everyone can afford to have cable or a dish. I thank the Supervisors for not eliminating the tax, but I'm glad they reduced the rate. If the money had not have been swept out of the TV fund there would have been enough money to fund the TV district for many years.
At this time we are not in a situation where we cannot afford a dish, but who knows what will happen in the future.

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014
Article comment by: Rick Sherwood

I aapaud the efforts of Moss to keep the district focused on their expenses. Assuming you even need a TV district which I don't believe we do. It's not the County taxer payers responsibility to provide coverage. That is pure and simple an item for the market place interesting that a year ago Angius believed the same. As for Johnson, if he were truly concerned about an emergency he would be pressing our water issues. So bottom line great that taxes were reduced a little though this should have been eliminated all together.

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