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home : opinion : columns October 20, 2014


3/25/2012 6:00:00 AM
Column: Taxed to the max: County's special district accounts awash in cash
Steven Robinson
District 2 Director, Mohave County GOP

Last year, during the budget/property tax levy battle, County Supervisor Buster Johnson argued for the necessity of an increased primary property tax levy, commenting that since the "special taxing districts" were already at their maximum rate, the county would have to transfer funds from the general budget to these other districts to cover their operating expenditures. This was because the secondary levy rates, also based on the reduced valuations, would result in lower tax collections for these special districts, including Library, Flood Control and the Television.

This was not just Buster's observation - the 2012 Budget Book made the following statement: "While this $1.8196 rate will generate an additional $1.2 million in General Fund revenue in 2012, it should be noted that the other county taxing districts ... are keeping the rates at the 2011 level, due to the valuation decrease. This will generate $5.5 million less revenue than 2011, for a net tax reduction of $4.3 million."

So I didn't give Supervisor Johnson's statement much thought, because his claim seemed perfectly sound.

However, as I have studied the county's past budgets, some troubling facts came to light. Instead of moneys being transferred from the General Fund to these special districts to cover their operating shortfalls, just the opposite is true. There are ample funds in these special districts. In fact, these taxing districts - Flood Control, Library and TV Improvement - have a whopping $40 million balance! Not one dollar was transferred to these districts, rather, moneys have been transferred OUT of these funds for use elsewhere.

I wondered why there was so much money in these districts, and why Supervisor Johnson made such an incredibly inaccurate statement. Since John Timko's Finance Department is responsible for budgeting and the financial reporting, certainly he knew that Buster's statement was inaccurate. Yet he remained silent. And with good reason, for it would contradict the narrative that the county is running short on money.

Buster's statement wasn't the only questionable claim. Also in the Budget Book, a product of Timko's office with the assistance of Walker's OMB Manager Gene Hepler, you'll find this claim: "This year, due to the decrease in assessed valuation, the PTOC's rate calculation requires a rate increase in order to maintain the statutory 2% revenue growth."

In reality, the ONLY part that is "mandatory" about the rate increase is Walker's commitment to keep increasing the property taxes coming in to the county coffers. The statutes define the MAXIMUM increase of 2% of primary property taxes on existing parcels, not a required or "statutory 2% revenue growth" as claimed in the Budget Book. Clearly, Walker is committed to more revenue, not less.

Now here is where it really gets interesting. These special taxing districts do have millions of dollars, and in at least two of the districts, there is two to three times their average annual expenditures for the last few years. As I reviewed the levy rates for these three districts, which the Board of Supervisors set each year, I noticed that none of them had changed in the past decade. They all were at the same rates, which defied logic. All three districts are required by statute to prepare annual financial reports and then adjust their tax levy rate to meet their budget needs. These reports are required to be audited annually, and the new levy rates are to take into account any surplus funds from the prior year. Not one of these three funds - Flood Control, Library and Television - have set their rates according to the law. Instead, the county has taxed to the max all three! So why does the Board of Supervisors, which sits as the board of directors for all three districts, fail to do their duty and follow the law, establishing new levy rates each year? After all, other counties adjust their rates each year, so why doesn't Mohave County?

I can't read their minds, but I do see the result of creating huge piles of cash. Timko and Walker have transferred millions of dollars out of these funds over the last several years, taking advantage of the huge valuation increases, and moving the funds elsewhere. Perhaps this new jail isn't operating as profitably as first hoped, or they need to cover future claims from pending lawsuits. The fact is, they are moving the funds, and furthermore they may be violating the law in doing so. Don't believe me? Go to the Arizona Revised Statutes and read 42-17106, 48-1104, 48-3620, and 48-3904. Then talk to your supervisor or state legislator. Ask them why Mohave County doesn't see the law the way it is written. The citizens of Mohave County deserve an answer, and an honest one.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2012
Article comment by: Jim Consolato

Great letter Steve. Time for Johnson to go. Do people understand Johnson is spending all his time in Washington at the County's expense . He is using the uranium mining issue as a spring board to advance his career. Buster cares about only Buster. The public needs to demand the County's books before the election so this can be sorted out. Johnson and Walker need to be fired with no pension or benefits. It's a short walk to the new jail for them if they are found guilty of any white collar crime. Save the County money and put them in the same cell.

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2012
Article comment by: Steven Robinson

@DAVID ROGERS:

What you are saying is that these so-called Republicans are acting like Liberals and Democrats??

Well you are correct in that assessment. Don't think for a second your Liberal Democrat friends would do any different. Just look at Pima County, California and of course,... Washington with the BIGGEST SPENDER in history bankrupting our Country!

We challenge these so-called Republicans (NOT!) for spending like a drunken democrat, not for conservatism.


Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: We Are Watching you

THIEVES!!! every last one of you...So is this the same thing Renner and Weldon are involved in? Mohave County residents and Mohave County employees are fed up! Please we all need to get together and contact the Attorney General and the Governors office and tell them we demand a full investigation on all of these THIEVES! I for one will be making my phone calls. The only way to get these idiots out is to demand an investigation!! Lets all stick together on this, it may be the only way to get them out, and get them Prosecuted!!!!

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: Enlightenment Costly

This sounds eerily similar to what I think I read in Dean Wolsgaard (sorry, can't remember how it's spelled) report about Kingman. My understanding is that income from water/sewer bills was not being used for the intended and lawful purpose, like maintaining and updating the water treatment plants and the lines to private residences that are most in need. The monies were instead being used towards the golf course and pet projects/customers, from what I understand. As a result of the federal agency's requirement to bring our water treatment plants into compliance and the funds no longer being there, the City just raised our water/sewer rates astronomically to pay for it. Our local governments have the appearance of systematically syphoning off funds from one budget category and applying it to other categories that the voters might not approve. What to do? What to do?

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: Revenue Generators

Because they are corrupt, and unless someone comes in your house and turns off dancin with the stars, your not gonna do anything about it.Sheeple are stupid.

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: L J

Finally facts that support our total disgust for Mohave County Management's, BOS and the policticans who " claim" to represent our interest. We live in district 1 of the county that Gary Watson represents. It's a mess trash broken down cars, trucks, unabated properties, poor roads,
Etc. when you ask the County for action to clean- up the area they hide behind " Sate laws" while breaking State laws regarding funds. This same supervisor is again running for re-election? For what? He done nothing for my family & I or our neighborhood. This is truly taxation without representation!


Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: Butch Meriwether

Steve did an excellent job of analyzing the data and pointing out how the county, especially Buster Johnson, is lying about the county the funds they have stashed away, and how Timko and Walker are possibly illegally moving funds. If they Timko and Walker are in fact doing someing illegal, then they could be fired and their retirements taken away from them.

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: jeanne kentch

I, and many county employees have known about the county's hidden funds for a while now. Mr Robinson did a superior job finding where exactly the money is hidden. So now that Mr Robinson has found all that money, can we unfreeze the employee's wages? Can we stop raising the taxes? Or will we all just be taking another trip to Disneyland?

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: Tom D.

Can't wait to hear the counties take on this matter. Oh what a hornets nest this should stir up. Either Mr. Robinson's going to have egg on his face or there's something much bigger going on here that he's brilliantly exposed.

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: David Rogers

Easy answer Sir, Republican TAX and SPEND. Republicans have raided our County coffers and have force the local Republicans to TAX it's Great Citizens more and more and more. Thats right vote Republican for more TAXES.

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: justanobody sr

simple explanation ...... greed!
the only recourse we (the public) have?
VOTE THEM ALL OUT !
stop complaining, and vote,
with new people comes new problems, but at least we will have stopped the "good ole boys" from continuing to raid the coffers.


Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: Thank You

I'm glad there are people like Mr.Robinson that understand all this. Most of us simply don't understand our tax statements, especially how these special districts seem to disproportionately increase our taxes. The frustrating thing is that there seems to be no way for the taxpaying public to restrict it. The public trusts no politician any more. They seem intent on seeking new and innovative ways to stick it to the hard working taxpayer. Maybe Mr. Robinson can do a followup article to inform us how to resist these money-grubbers and reduce our property taxes.

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: Kingman Krud

Unfortunately the answers to these questions will be coming from a politician, so honesty is not a factor.

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012
Article comment by: Patriot WES

Mohave Co. doesn't see the law the way it is written? As long as Ron Walker is in power, it will always be this way. When he made a public statement which he said" If you don't like my rules and laws, take them to court and change them", I knew this county was in trouble!
"Absolute power breeds corruption absolutely"




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