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2:26 AM Mon, Dec. 10th

Mohave County approves 'revenue-neutral' property tax changes

KINGMAN - Property owners in Mohave County will see a 15-cent increase in their primary property tax rate next year as part of the final budget approved Monday by the Board of Supervisors, raising about $2.5 million to offset "sweeps" by the state.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the $268.1 million budget, including $84.3 million in the general fund. Board Chairman Steve Moss cast the dissenting vote.

While the primary property tax rate is going up 15 cents, two other taxes are being reduced by the same amount. The TV District tax rate is coming down 5 cents, and the Library District tax rate is reduced by 10 cents, making it a "net neutral" tax increase.

Moss said the board was "shortsighted" in reducing the Library District tax. It could imperil library operations, possibly leading to libraries being open only two or three days a week in the coming years.

"The library's future operation is in danger," Moss said. "We had a chance to solve this without any tax increases. Next year, I guarantee we'll have to look at tax increases."

Supervisor Buster Johnson presented the plan to lower the TV and library tax to lessen the burden on taxpayers.

"That will offset the property tax increase for homeowners while still allowing the county to obtain the extra revenue into the general fund," he said.

The library district's contingency fund will drop from about $3 million to $1.3 million with the tax reduction, while the TV district will go from about $2.8 million to $2.2 million.

Johnson made it clear at previous board meetings that he would not vote for a quarter-cent sales tax increase, a proposal some viewed as an alternative to raising property taxes. It would have required a unanimous vote.

That was a disappointment for Robert Geresy of Mohave Valley. He felt a sales tax increase would be more of an "equal burden" for all citizens of Mohave County.

"You talk about education of the public, but you didn't give the public a chance. You zoned in on property owners, not the public. I know three of you had no choice because of one vote against the sales tax," Geresy said during the public hearing. "Share the burden among everybody, not just property owners."

Stanley Hicks said he moved to Mohave County from Illinois to escape property taxes that went from $900 to $1,800 over 20 years.

"You say it's not much. We heard that every year in Illinois. It's not much, but it adds up when you're on a fixed income," Hicks said. "We may be old, but we're not feeble, and we won't be feeble in the next election."

A quarter-cent sales tax hike would bring in roughly $7 million a year, far more than is needed, and would have to be imposed for at least five years, Johnson noted. A property tax will bring in just enough to cover the shortfall and can be lowered next year, he said.

Supervisor Hildy Angius supported an alternative plan proposed by Moss to sweep about $3 million from the county's vehicle replacement fund and about $900,000 from the TV district.

"To me, it's kind of a no-brainer to sweep from the TV District that nobody uses instead of the library district,"Angius said.