Property taxes subject of debate at BOS meeting

KINGMAN – Conflict arose at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting Monday evening after an announcement was made that the property tax rate could potentially be reduced.

Marc Goldstone said the proposed tax rate reduction was not enough. Goldstone, leader of the Arizona Tax Revolt movement geared toward Arizona constitutional tax reform, recently announced that the movement did not garner sufficient signatures to go to ballot.

“The huge increase in valuations more than offset the reduction in tax rate yielding a large and unjustified double digit increase in property taxes for Mohave County residents,” Goldstone said. “There is absolutely no justification for this. With fully half of the new homes being built for real estate speculators and part-time visitors, the county services to support these new developments are much less than for neighborhoods with full-time residents and, as such, the budget increase for 2006 should be no more than three to four percent, which would match the ability of Mohave County homeowners, your constituents, to pay.”

County Finance Director John Timko said the county is proposing an increase in the primary property taxes of $479,689, or 1.81 percent. This takes into account the reduction of the primary property tax rate from $1.75 per $100 assessed value to $1.6777 per $100 assessed value. The reason for the cut, he said, was the passage of the Truth in Taxation bill into law, capping county tax revenues to a 2-percent growth per year.

Timko warned that although the tax rate was going down, the increase in valuations could cause residents to still see a higher tax bill this year.

To Goldstone, the cut was not enough to make up for what he called an outrageous jump in property valuations.

“Growth and development has been welcomed in Mohave County for the jobs and revenue it provides. If you, as planned, exact increases in taxes to the existing property owners based on growth, you will cause a change in perception about growth being a good thing,” Goldstone said. “So, being greedy now and allowing your budgets to grow faster than real private sector income will trigger a slow growth movement. With construction and development being the largest employer and user of government services, it makes sense to listen to the taxpayer and remember that you have an obligation to them to see that county government is run efficiently and within the means of your constituents.”

Using numbers given to him by County Assessor Ron Nicholson, Goldstone said the average increase for property valuations was 18 percent this year.

Goldstone also urged the supervisors to write the Legislature and governor and ask for a statute to be passed which would allow property improvements and new construction to hit the tax roles immediately upon completion. Currently, Goldstone said it takes about 18 months for these properties and improvements to hit the tax roles.

Board Chairman Pete Byers said that for as long as he has been a supervisor they have been trying to get the Legislature to pass that very thing. However, each time they have gotten it to the Legislature, it remained imprisoned in committee.

Goldstone also suggested cutting “county fat.”

“I urge the Mohave County supervisors to find a new county manager willing to empower and establish a reward system for county employees who identify and implement cost savings. The alternative is the continued waste of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

A statement prepared by County Manager Ron Walker, who was absent from the meeting, said the county is doing everything in its power to accommodate growth and, at the same time, cut the budget.

“The county, this year, faces a new challenge to improving its services to accommodate the expansive Mohave County growth,” Walker said. “This year, by Legislative action, property tax revenues will be artificially capped, taking no consideration for the costs and needs demanded by those new citizens who are coming to the county. This amounts to micromanagement on one side of the financial equation to limit receipts and legislative apathy on the other side for the costs associated with local government services. It also amounts to removal of local control and substituting that control with legislative tampering.”

Despite what he calls the shortsightedness of new legislative mandates, he said the county will continue to do its best to provide quality services to its citizens.

“Certainly our most urgent capital project is a new county jail. The criminal justice system is a critical priority and is and will need to grow with the population.” Walker said.

The public hearings for the 2006-07 fiscal year budget and the proposed property tax rate decrease were set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 7 at the Mohave County Administration Complex. For more information, contact the Board of Supervisors at 753-0731.