Byers to put Johnson on the spot over sales tax

The Mohave County Supervisors have been unable to agree on raising sales and property taxes during the current and previous budget years.

However, District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers said he wants to revisit the issue with a proposal to double the sales taxe to a half cent on a dollar to increase revenues for the general fund, the portion of the budget that pays for a variety of county programs and services.

Byers said he decided to place the issue on the agenda for a meeting Monday in Lake Havasu City to place District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson on the spot.

Johnson, who lives in Lake Havasu City, blocked an increase in the sales tax for the current fiscal year, which started July 1, because it requires a 3-0 vote of the supervisors.

"I want those people in Havasu to know and I know the people here (in Kingman) know and in Bullhead (City) know if we don't raise the sales taxes, we are going to have to raise the property taxes," Byers said.

"I am hoping that the political climate changes."

Byers appears to enjoy the support of District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell, but Johnson indicated that he sees no reason to change his position.

Johnson also lives in a community where activists launched a drive to repeal an existing sales tax – which he supported – that went into effect Jan.

1, 2000, to raise money for new county buildings.

"They had the ability to raise taxes last time," Johnson said.

"I am not going to raise taxes for the sake of raises taxes."

Byers repeated his charge that Johnson is trying to force him and Sockwell to vote in favor of raising property taxes.

All three supervisors oppose raising property taxes, now $1.75 for every $100 in assessed valuation.

Byers and Sockwell have said they see higher property taxes as a burden on low- and moderate-income property owners.

A hike in property taxes may be approved by a 2-1 vote.

Sockwell said he opposes higher property taxes because homeowners in Bullhead City have to pay as much as $7,000 to $8,000 to join a sewer district.

During the budget process, County Manager Ron Walker urged the board to double sales taxes and increase property taxes by 21.94 cents per $100 in valuations to increase revenues for the general fund by more than $4 million this fiscal year.

Doubling the sales taxes could increase revenues by $3.3 million to $4 million a year, Byers said.

"We'll start collecting it right away and we can start putting it in the next budget (cycle)," he said.

He cited a contingency fund that dropped to about $700,000.

"It should be 10 percent of our (general fund) budget," he said.

"It should be $5 million."

Johnson stuck to his previous position that the county needs to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether county government is operating efficiently.

Then the supervisors can determine whether taxes need to be raised.

He said he is willing to listen to what Byers has to say on Monday.

The meeting takes place in the public library at 1770 McCulloch Blvd.

The supervisors meet behind closed doors at 9 a.m., followed by a public session that starts at 9:30 or whenever thereafter that the closed meeting ends.