Tax Rate Steady, But You'll Still Pay More

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Property owners can expect to be paying higher county taxes next year.

The county's primary tax rate is still $4.41 per $100 of assessed value, but the value of property has increased, so, tax bills will be higher.

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A Payson homeowner must pay property taxes for the school district, and in most cases, the Northern Gila County Sanitary District, County Assessor Dale Hom said.

For example, on a house with a full-cash value of $200,000, the net assessed value is 10 percent, or $20,000. The property owner will pay $4.41 per $100 to the county, or $882. However, a Payson homeowner also must pay property taxes for the school district, and in most cases, the Northern Gila County Sanitary District, County Assessor Dale Hom said.

He said he did not know the full tax rate for the 2004-2005 fiscal year yet -- with the passage of the school budget override -- but last year, the rate was $11.45 for Payson residents served by the sanitary district, and $10.75 for those outside the sewer system. So, the owner of that $200,000 house had a tax bill of $2,290 if they lived in the sanitary district, or $2,150 outside the district. Another factor in the property tax equation is state aid that reduces the amount owed, Hom said. The amount of aid depends upon the location of the property, he said.

"Valuations are up, so the property taxes collected will be up, but we haven't changed our tax rate," Christensen said.

Hom said this year, the county's net assessed value is $367,452,191. Last year, the total assessed value for taxation purposes was $346,905,903, he said. What a property owner pays depends on where they live, Hom said.

County Manager John Nelson said last year the county budgeted for $15,298,550 in revenue from the primary property tax rate. This year, the budget calls for $16,136,287 in revenue from assessments. So, increased assessed value is expected to bring in an additional $837,737.

The county supervisors approved the 2004-2005 budget at a special meeting Monday. Gila County will have a $61,937,191 budget for the new fiscal year. Last year, the budget was $61,458,094.

"That's an increase of less than one percent," Nelson said.

"The mining industry is still the biggest taxpayer in the county," Christensen said. "Industry pays 25 percent of its assessed value, while residential property pays 10 percent of its assessed value."

The county's budget is primarily funded by property and sales taxes, plus fees generated by intergovernmental agreements. These three sources are expected to provide $26.8 million in revenue for the county.

Transfers -- payments to other entities and for special services -- take the biggest chunk out of the county's budget.

A total of $8.1 million is expected to be paid for such things as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System ($4.5 million), the state's budget deficit ($101,000), capital improvements ($1.4 million), Gila Community College ($250,000), library district ($65,500), facilities management ($889,044), computer services ($471,989), drug task force ($29,000).

Law enforcement will take $7.9 million of the budget; the court system, $6.2 million; general government expenses -- administrative services, the board of supervisors, the assessor, elections, finance, recorder and treasurer -- is expected to cost $5.3 million; $2.6 million will be spent on health, welfare and sanitation; and $500,234 is set aside for education and recreation.

The department with the largest increase between the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 budget years is general government, which is receiving a $401,163 bump. Judicial services are not far behind, with a $390,244 increase. Law enforcement expenses are expected to drop by $228,664.

While $1.4 million is budgeted for capital improvements, the priority projects have not yet been identified, though Christensen said he expects one of them will be putting a new roof on the courthouse in Globe.

The budget includes a 5-percent raise for all employees, which breaks down to 2.5 percent for cost of living and 2.5 percent on their anniversary date. Three new employees will be added with the new budget, Christensen said.

"All three are for the new recorder's office in Payson," he said.

Community college fees

The most difficult aspect of the budget process, according to Nelson, was the issue of the community college fees -- about $1 million -- from county sales taxes withheld by the state for out-of-county tuitions. The county and state have been at odds for about a year over whether the state should have withheld the funds. The county contends, and the Arizona Attorney General's office agrees, the state should have not held onto the $1,046,000 after July 2003, when the county was no longer obligated to pay tuition to other community colleges due to the creation of its own community college district.

Christensen said he agreed with Nelson about the problems with the community college money.

Gila County is supposed to get the money back and so the 2004-2005 budget includes the funds. Nelson said the money is planned for several different expenditures:

  • $250,000 for the community college
  • $100,000 for natural resource initiative (forest health)
  • $250,000 for capital improvements
  • $250,000 for property tax stabilization
  • $50,000 for library automation system

"This is the most conservative budget we can produce with the requirements we have," Christensen said.

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