Not all of the lingering questions about Gila County's proposed $11.89 million tax rate for fiscal year 2002-2003 have easy answers. But Gila County District One Supervisor Ron Christensen says he is determined to answer as many as he can.
"You could fill a newspaper with information about the tax rate and still not explain it in such a way as people can grasp," Christensen said, "because there are so many ingredients, or calculations, in the pie."
For the moment, the simplest tool at Christensen's disposal is a chart, created by the Arizona Department of Revenue, which compares this county's tax rate with that of the state's other 15 counties and with the Gila County tax rate of the past two years.
According to the chart, Gila County's proposed tax rate which includes secondary and primary taxes is the seventh-highest in the state, smack dab in the middle of the other counties. Those with higher proposed tax rates are Pima County ($17.29 million), Pinal County ($16.60), Yuma County ($14.04, Santa Cruz County ($13.37), Cochise County ($13.09) and Maricopa County ($11.29).
The counties with the lowest proposed tax rates are Greenlee ($5.50 million), Apache ($8.22), Coconino ($8.98), Navajo ($9.79), Graham ($10.50), Yavapai ($10.75), La Paz ($11.27) and Mohave ($11.44).
The state average is $12.55 million.
In comparison to the fiscal years 2000-2001 and 2001-2002, Gila County's tax rate was $12.44 million and $12.94 million meaning that the proposed tax rate is a reduction of almost a million dollars over both periods, and that the overall tax rate will be going down, Christensen said.
The reduction, the supervisor said, reflects "the more efficient operation of the county. And we are a county that continues to grow in assessed valuation as well. New houses came on, particularly in my district; there have been some very expensive homes built, and those add to the overall assessed valuation ... The end result of that is that the tax rate comes down a few pennies."
Also having an effect on the downward tax rate, Christensen said, is the arrival in Gila County of businesses like the Door Stop cabinet and door manufacturing company, which held its Payson groundbreaking Wednesday, Sept. 4.
"When Door Stop gets into production, that will be another brand-new tax structure that's here, and that wasn't here before," he said. "It adds jobs, but it doesn't add any new burdens on us."
Such events by themselves, Christensen said, "may seem rather small in the overall picture, but they're like pennies. They all add up. My district is the fastest-growing area in Gila County, and it has the smallest amount of private land in the county as well as in the state. So anything that occurs here in respect to valuations usually ends up being pretty positive for us."
At the very least, Christensen said, the state-prepared tax rate comparison chart "will stimulate more questions. And if they call my office (474-2029), we can get into greater detail. We'll be happy to try to answer any questions."