Tax cap proponents show anger

KINGMAN – Marc Goldstone is mad as hell and he’s not the only one. The retired computer engineer is upset that the property taxes on his Bullhead City home increased 80 percent this year based on the 2007 assessment.

Goldstone wasn’t alone in experiencing sticker shock on his tax bill. According to Mohave County Assessor Ron Nicholson, property taxes increased an average of 24 percent this year.

Goldstone met with his homeowners association and formed a group calling itself the Arizona Tax Revolt. Their plan is to roll back property tax payments to 2003 levels and amend the Arizona Constitution to base residential property taxes on the purchase price rather than the market value.

More than 1,000 volunteers are circulating more than 20,000 petition sheets throughout Arizona to put the issue on the November ballot. The group needs 183,917 signatures of registered voters by July 6 to qualify.

Goldstone based the plan on a 1978 tax revolt in California known there as Proposition 13. That initiative was lead by Harold Jarvis, who chronicled his experiences in a book called “Mad as Hell.”

“I was mad as hell and I asked Ron (Nicholson) what could be done,” Goldstone said. “This was totally unreasonable. There’s no one in Bullhead City that got an 80-percent raise in the past year that could begin to pay an 80-percent increase in property tax.”

Wednesday night, about 40 people – many of them seniors living on fixed incomes – shared with Goldstone their anger caused by “dramatically” increasing property taxes. If taxes continued increasing at such a pace, the seniors argued they would be taxed out of their homes.

The crowd united with Goldstone, Nicholson and Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert in their belief that the tax system needs reformation.

“Property taxes absolutely are not based on one’s ability to pay when the assessment increased based on market forces,” Goldstone said.

The blame, Nicholson said, lies with the state law for assessing real property. The assessment is based on the sales of similar property.

For example, if you buy a home for $100,000 and a few years later the same style of home sells for $300,000, then your assessment is based on your purchase price plus the $300,000 market value even if you made no improvements to your home. Nicholson said he looks for sales of 30 or more homes to have a viable sample of the market.

The Tax Revolt group’s initiative would cap property owners’ total taxes at the 2003 level and limit increases to only improvements made on the property. For people who purchase property after 2003, the cap would be the taxes paid in the first year of ownership.

Goldstone expects the measure also would limit the number of bonds a government proposes to voters. Bonds are just new taxes, he said.

If, for example, a school district wanted to float a bond to raise money for a new building, another entity, such as a fire district would have to reduce its tax rate so the total property tax did not exceed the cap.

“Right now, there is no skin off their nose to produce a new bond, get the public to approve it, have the taxes go up and it seems they don’t care. Well, this is going to put a stop to it,” Goldstone said.

Maricopa County’s Schweikert said it’s time to “starve the beast.” Schweikert, who collects taxes for the biggest “beast” within the state, said the initiative doesn’t go far enough to fix the problem.

“It is spending that makes your property taxes go up,” he said.

The former state legislator and head of the Arizona property tax court said government always finds a source for new revenue. Even if the Tax Revolt is successful, Schweikert said the taxes would be shifted to commercial property owners who, in turn, would shift the burden back onto the general public.

“Money comes from landowners and commercial property,” he said. “Every time you go and buy a loaf of bread and you wonder why it’s doubled in price, it’s because all those property taxes just got shifted to that commercial property. It doesn’t stop spending.

“They hit you in sales taxes. They hit you in special taxes on fuel. They hit you in special taxes on insurance. They increase special taxes on utility bills. As politicians, we love it because you don’t see it. You don’t blame us because it’s hidden.”

Goldstone said his group would work on a separate initiative to include commercial properties in 2008.

He sees his group’s struggle as big government versus the people. But, he added, Big Brother started it.

“Government just doesn’t get it,” Goldstone said. “Basically, they need to look at what they spend money on and like anyone else in business and family finances, they need to look at the money that’s coming in and they need to find a way to live under it. They need to run county government, fire districts, school districts like they way we run our homes – responsibly.”

For more information, call Marc Goldstone at 928-754-8305 or in Kingman call George Foschaar at 681-2354. The group is online at www.arizonataxrevolt.org.