The bad news? The net assessed value of property in Gila County dropped another 10.5 percent in the past year.
The good news: Many homeowners may see a drop in their property tax bill, depending on the assessment shift in their neighborhood. But even if home values don’t change — the tax bill will rise.
Each year all homes are revalued by the assessor’s office based on sales, said an official.
The Gila County Finance Department generates tax rates, not the assessor’s office, nor the treasurer. So be calm: They are just the messengers.
But don’t get too used to the new bill, which is based on values as the local housing market bottomed out two years ago. County officials say they’re seeing property values rebound.
And that will eventually translate into good news for schools, the county, water, fire and sanitary districts that rely on the property tax — even if they have to get through another bleak budget this year.
“The net assessed valuation for the primary is based on sales that have transpired quite awhile ago,” said an official from the Gila County Assessor’s Office. “Sales comps used were from the first half of 2011 and all of 2010.”
The official said home values have started to rise, but that won’t affect property tax bills until 2015.
If anyone wonders why assessments lag so far behind the market, it goes back to the 1994 passage by the Arizona Legislature of Senate bill 1362.
“Before the change, taxing authorities had little time to look at assessed values to base their tax rates,” said the assessor’s office, “The Senate wanted to give them time to get (the tax rates) done, after the appeal period was done.”
Before lawmakers imposed the delay, assessors’ offices scrambled to get everything done. Now, the dust has settled before property taxes hit mailboxes.
Every February, the assessor’s office sends out a notice of a home’s value to homeowners.
Property owners then have time to appeal the assessment. To give those appeals time to be heard, the Legislature built in an almost two-year lag time in assessed values.
On Aug. 19 with little fanfare, the Gila County Board of Supervisors passed the new tax rates. The county also legally sets the tax rate for many special districts, although the supervisors simply pass along the rates requested by the district governing boards.
This year, property owners will have extra time to pay their bills due to a software upgrade snafu. At the Aug. 19 board of supervisors meeting, Don McDaniel, the county manager reported that the assessor’s office needed an extra 30 days to get bills into mailboxes.
“The tax bills this year will be 30 days late because of software changes, but we will notify taxpayers by public notice,” said McDaniel. “The software changeover is taking longer than the consultant expected ... (so) the payment period will be delayed as well, about a month.”
Most of the countywide tax rates remained the same, except those for schools.
Gila County kept its general-purpose rate steady at $4.19 per $1,000 of assessed value for the past four years. Keeping the rate steady will cost the county $2 million, due to the drop in assessed values.
Also unchanged are the library district rate at 0.20 and the fire district assistance rate at 0.10 per $100 of assessed value.
Libraries will lose $105,000; fire districts will lose about $52,000 this year.
The Northern Gila County Sanitary District also left its rate unchanged at .6000 per $100 of assessed value.
On the other hand, most schools significantly raised their tax rates, often in response to set state formulas.
The state increased the school equalization rate by 9 percent. This money helps equalize spending between poor and wealthy districts, in response to a court order declaring the previous system unconstitutional.
The Gila County Community College District (GCCCD) also increased its rate by 16 percent.
The Payson Unified School District (PUSD) increased its rate by 27 percent. The override and bond rate increased by 11 percent, in accordance with previous voter approval.
The Town of Payson increased its rate by 9 percent.
However, only GCCCD and the Town of Payson will see an increase in property tax revenues this year. GCCCD will receive around $200,000 more and the town will receive $10,000 more.
PUSD will see a decrease of $2 million in its share of the property taxes, despite its rate increase.