Property Values Drop By 11 Percent

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Gila County property values have dropped 11 percent in the past year according to the assessor’s office.

Unfortunately for shell-shocked property owners, this won’t affect property taxes until 2012.

The figure represents a countywide average, so it doesn’t apply to individual houses.

On the other hand, the value of the mines operating in southern Gila County increased by a whopping 61 percent. As a result, despite the sharp drop in home values the overall value of the county’s property tax base dropped by just 5 percent, said Larry Huffer, chief appraiser for the Gila County Assessor’s Office.

But even that more modest decrease represents a $1 million hit to the county’s bottom line, unless the board of supervisors again votes to boost the tax rate.

Real estate experts said the decline in assessed value won’t necessarily translate into lower home values should homeowners have to sell.

“This doesn’t affect market value,” said Ray Pugel, broker at Coldwell Banker.

When a homeowner sells their property what decides the value of their home is the price of comparable homes in the area, he said.

The decline in assessed values might result in lower property tax bills, but not necessarily.

“It’s a fluid situation,” said John Nelson, deputy county manager. “As we look at sales tax, state legislation and assessed values, all affect the (county’s) bottom line.”

The county’s dose of bad news on the property tax front offsets some otherwise encouraging budget news from the state. Recently, county supervisors met with state senators to seek a reprieve for the strained county budget. Any change in how the legislators approach their budget balancing would affect the county.

So far, the governor and legislators have agreed that transferring state prisoners to county jails will cause more problems than it solves, but this policy remains for legislators to vote out.

Other proposals from the counties, such as restoring the flow of Highway User Revenue Funds, (HURF), removing the burden of additional program costs, and ceasing mandatory contributions remain under discussion. The increase in sales tax seen around the state might help counties, but they only receive half of a percent.

“It’s hard to judge what will happen,” said Nelson.

Even with the budget impact of dwindling property values, Nelson says he understands the supervisors don’t want to put additional pressure on homeowners by increasing the tax rate, even though they may do so by statute.

The 11 percent decrease in the value includes all vacant land, residential property, businesses and homes in Gila County, said Huffer.

When he included state numbers on the values of mines, gas and electric, telecommunication and transportation companies, the overall evaluation decrease shrank to 5 percent, said Huffer.

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