Let me begin by thanking you for going to the lengths you are to inform and engage voters this election season and doing your part to “get out the vote.” I believe uninformed or misinformed voters, limited citizen knowledge of the full electoral process, and voter apathy represents the greatest threat to our entire political foundation — and, therefore, the future of our country.
Having said that, I’m also a stickler for the facts underlying all the political hype that also bubbles up in this process — believing if the facts are in place, folks are more apt to make their decisions from being informed rather than being persuaded.
To wit: in your article “Vital choices confront Rim Country voters” in the political tab of last Tuesday’s paper, you said “Home values fall, as property taxes rise … Residents of northern Gila County pay 70 percent of the taxes, but must drive to Globe to get basic services …” — the rest of your concerns I will address at another time.
As to county services, level of service and local representation: In a recent article, I allowed as how all the services provided by Gila County are available in both the north end of the county and the south end — with the exception of a permanent treasurer’s office in Payson or a permanent public fiduciary office in Payson — and this is true. However, while true, my heartburn is still with not having adequate and secure Superior and Justice Court facilities and jailing facilities — but that can wait for another article.
What the article did not discuss and is more to the point of our local elections is the level of service you may or may not receive — and the level of local elected representation providing those services. For instance, using Roosevelt Lake and/or the Blue Bridge or Roosevelt Dam as my north-south dividing line — of the 16 elected positions available in Gila County government, four of us (or 25 percent) live north of that line — and is something the voter decides.
To that discussion, 18,300 of the 33,900 total registered voters live north of that line (or 54 percent) leaving 15,600 south of that line including the 2,200 on the San Carlos Reservation.
In addition $14,600,000 in property tax dollars (or 71 percent) comes from north of that line and $6,000,000 (or 29 percent) comes from the south of that line (and, of course, none from the San Carlos Reservation).
I believe that the very contested positions this election — some decided in the Primary Election, some in the General — are folks wanting to address this disparity.
This is good news for the whole county — more interest and involvement can only bring light of day to the situation and improve the level of service overall.
As to actual property tax situation: Switching gears, your readers need to know, in fact, rather than raising property taxes to run the business of the county, over the last three years (most recent board of supervisors’ (BOS) “regime” elected in the 2008 elections) your property taxes levied by the BOS on behalf of operating Gila County was decreased $3,282,496 (or 14 percent) as a result of all departments doing more with less.
That is not to say that the school districts and other “special” secondary taxing authorities like fire, water, sewer, lighting district, etc., boards did not, in fact, raise their tax rates and, therefore, property tax share over the same time period —because they did.
While it is true that home properties dropped in assessed value the last three years, overall the property tax burden in Gila County property also dropped from $23,818,540 to $20,536,044. Now, at the same time the other 36 Gila County taxing authorities raised their portion of the tax bill from $39,277,838 to $40,808,239 for an increase of $1,530,401. With Gila County’s decrease, however, the net result was an overall net decrease of $1,752,095 (or 14 percent).
Again, thanks to Gila County, million one million seven hundred dollars net in property taxes was taken off the table the last three years! And this was done with no forced layoffs, furloughs, or reduction in service levels and all while maintaining an A+ bond rating — and the taxpayer deserves to know this.
Regardless — folks need to go vote Tuesday in the Primary Election — and again the General Election on Nov. 6 — and they need to do it as informed as we can provide them.