Property tax revolt pushed

Group needs 180,000 petition signatures to get issue on November ballot

BULLHEAD CITY – An organized group of Mohave County citizens calling themselves “Arizona Tax Revolt’’ introduced their campaign to an overwhelming crowd of residents at their meeting in City Council chambers in Bullhead City Friday night.

After the recent release of assessment notices showing an increase in assessed property value in some cases at 80 percent and higher, many county citizens have said enough is enough.

Marc Goldstone, chairman of the organization, said that in order to change the way they are taxed, they have to change the constitution. He described a statewide tax reform campaign just rolling out that would necessitate more than 180,000 signatures to make it to the ballot to change the state constitution. He said the proposed referendum resembles Proposition 13, which has been in affect in California since 1978.

Organization information said that the initiative would base property tax assessment on purchase price and not on “a bunch of assumptions based on dissimilar properties or revenue goals.” For property owned prior to 2003, the initiative would set the 2003 full cash value as the assessed value, information said. The initiative would limit property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value, and assessed value could not increase more than 2 percent a year, Goldstone said. It would allow for reductions during periods of recession.

Property that changes ownership by way of inheritance would not be reassessed, and senior citizen property assessment would be frozen, the material said.

New taxes or indebtedness would require a two-thirds vote of the electorate if held during an election year, and special elections would require a three-fourths vote. A two-thirds vote would also be required of the Legislature or electorate to change any part of the initiative.

Goldstone invited Mohave County Assessor Ron Nicholson to the meeting to explain the taxing process to those in attendance.

Nicholson said that the Arizona property tax is based on market value. He said that while most people think that county assessors are omnipotent, in reality they are only allowed a narrow amount of discretion as far as assessment goes. Nicholson said that the Department of Revenue watches county assessments and compares them to actual sales prices. If it is out of compliance (it is supposed to be around 82 to 83 percent of the sales price), the Department of Revenue could force an equalization, causing a large jump.

As an example, Nicholson explained that the Maricopa County Assessor froze tax assessments two years ago. It has since been determined that it needs to be brought up, which would cause citizens to not only gain this year’s increased valuation, but the increase that would have happened during the last two years when taxes were frozen.

Nicholson did say he is trying to take the increases down a bit. This year, the sales ratio was taken down to 79 percent, he said, and he hopes to take it down to 77 percent next year. He said he wants to take it down as low as possible without exposing the county to involuntary adjustment.

To change tax law, he said, “You have to change fairness and equity as laid out by statute and legislation.”

There are exemptions and appeals processes that taxpayers can take advantage of, Nicholson said. There is relief geared toward senior citizens in the state. State statute allows residents over the age of 65 to freeze the valuation of homes. The valuation the house is taxed on will remain the same as long as the owner remains eligible, however, there will still be tax at the same rate as others in the area.

Other requirements include the property being the primary residence of the taxpayer, the owner having used this as their primary residence for at least two years prior to applying and all owners’ total income, including non-taxable income, cannot exceed prescribed amounts. For 2005, it was $28,944 for a single owner and $36,180 for a couple. There are also exemptions for widows, widowers and the disabled.

To find out more about these or the assessment process, visit the assessor’s Web site at www.co.mohave.az.us.

Nicholson said that he understood that citizens were not there to object to paying a fair portion of taxes, but they were beginning to voice the question, “When does it cease to be fair.”

Goldstone said that their goal is to have at least 230,000 signatures by July 6. It is their ultimate goal to have the issue on the November ballot. Goldstone said the wording of the initiative will soon be available online at www.arizonataxrevolt.org. They are constantly looking for volunteers and donations. For more information about this initiative, e-mail ArizonaTAXRevolt@yahoo.com.