Tax Possible For P-S Water District

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The Pine-Strawberry Domestic Water Improvement District has announced that it will request about $56,000 from the Gila County Board of Supervisors for its first budget, said Board President Howard Matthews during the April board of directors meeting Saturday.

This may mean a property tax assessment on parcels within the district's boundaries.

After two years of searching, the district's board has found grants and state funding that are available to it. The catch is that the district must come up with matching funds.

"You have to participate if you want grants," said board member Melvin Van Vorst.

Of the $56,000, $6,000 will go to the district's operating expenses such as the cost of board elections, Matthews said. The largest chunk, $50,000, would be combined with a United States Geological Survey grant of $13,000, a U.S. Forest Service grant of $22,500, and funding from the Arizona Legislature to the tune of $120,000.

With the possibility of more than $200,000 in its coffers, the district plans to move forward with the U.S. Geological Survey to search for deep water in the red wall limestone at 1,500 to 2,000 feet below the mountain hamlets of Pine and Strawberry.

"This is more than enough to begin the project and get the first hole drilled," Matthews said.

The survey and exploratory drilling is expected to take four to five years. The district plans to continue to ask for the $56,000 from the county each year until the survey is complete, he said. Board members also expect the state to continue funding and the grants may be renewable.

There will be public meetings as the district moves through the budget preparation process, Matthews said.

Once the budget is approved by the seven-member board, it will be submitted to the board of supervisors. If the supervisors approve the budget, then they must find a way to fund it.

The most likely way to fund this budget will be a tax increase, Matthews said.

The numbers the county provided to the district show 4,016 parcels of property within district boundaries. Those parcels have a combined assessed value of about $25 million. To fund $56,000, it will cost each property owner about 20 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation.

Matthews said this would amount to $20 a year for the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000. This $20 would go directly to the water district.

Four area water districts -- Solitude Trails, Portal IV, Fuller Ranch and Pine Creek Water District -- have opted to not participate in the P-S Water Improvement District. Properties in these areas are not a part of the tax base and would not pay any new taxes, Matthews said.

If the time came that they wanted to join the P-S Water Improvement District, they must petition, and, if approved, they would be expected to pay a fee equal to what other taxpayers have already paid, he said.

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