County Boosts Tax Rates 12%

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The value of existing property in Gila County plunged 9 percent in the past year, prompting the board of supervisors on Monday to boost the county’s property tax rate by about 12 percent — the first increase in the rate since 2003.

Deputy County Manager John Nelson said the shattered real estate market has finally hit property values, and he anticipates another two or three years of declines.

Monday the supervisors “certified” their own tax rate, as well as those of other taxing districts in the county. Each district sets rates, which supervisors formally approve.

For fiscal 2011, the county’s total property value totaled $568.5 million.

The dramatic 34 percent drop to $29 million in new construction accounted for most of the drop. However, this year’s new construction values still totaled about $10 million more than in 2009.

“We have finally caught up,” to the market, said Nelson.

Two components drive property taxes, he added — assessed value and tax rate. Although values declined overall, tax rates increased, which means property owners might still write larger checks.

When 2011 tax bills come due, taxes on a $100,000 home will cost $419, up from $375 last year. Meanwhile, property owners also pay taxes levied by special districts like water and fire. Fewer than half of these special districts increased their tax rates.

Of the taxes Gila County collects, the county only takes 37 percent. Of that money, cops and courts absorb 70 percent, said Nelson.

Besides the county’s 37 percent, schools and libraries receive nearly half of the total tax bill, while cities and towns receive 3 percent. Special districts like fire stations and water districts receive 12 percent.

As the state of Arizona has passed down costs and taken money from Gila County, supervisors have asked taxpayers for more money. Nelson showed how a sample tax bill on a home valued at $100,000 in 2006 would have increased from that year to this year.

In 2006, that homeowner would have paid $441 in property taxes. In 2011, that same homeowner, his house now worth roughly $116,000, would pay almost $486 — an increase of roughly $45 from 2006 to 2011.

Nelson said the county has passed 58 percent of increased costs from the state to homeowners and has swallowed the rest “Yes, during down times property taxes have increased, but less than the state has passed to us,” he said.

Elsewhere in the county, tax levies have also changed. For instance, the community college’s tax bill increased, but the Pine Strawberry Fire Department will collect less. The district will collect $2.1 million this year, down from $2.2 million last year. The department has the largest tax base of any fire district in county.

Taxes for residents in the Hellsgate district, however, will increase from $266 on a $100,000 home to $289. Values in both districts increased.

The Northern Gila County Sanitary District also lowered its taxes to $60 per $100,000, down from $70. The district includes $234 million worth of property, down from last year, but it will also collect about $344,000 less.

Supervisor Tommie Martin said that people always yell at the supervisors for increasing taxes, but the supervisors don’t set most of the tax rates. “We always get dinged,” she said.

“Yes, the bill is coming from the Gila County treasurer,” she said, but the money goes elsewhere.

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