Property tax limits measure squeaks by

Today's News Herald
Thursday, November 30, 2006
David Bell

A voter-approved cap on property tax levies will become official Monday. And a private foundation is looking to put the same limits on taxes for flood control districts and libraries.

Proposition 101 - the Taxpayer Protection Act - was passed by voters earlier this month by a slim seven-tenths of 1 percent margin. Prop. 101 limits the primary property tax levied by counties to the previous year's amount plus up to two percent for growth. A greater increase can be implemented but the county must first get approval from the voters.

“It becomes official Monday when the Secretary of State, the Governor, the Attorney General and Chief Justice of State Supreme Court sign off on the official canvass,” said Joe Kanefield, Arizona elections director for the Secretary of State's Office. “Then that begins the five-day challenge period when any elector can challenge the results.”

Even though the measure passed by a slim margin, just over 21,000 votes statewide, the County Supervisors Association has no plans to put forward a challenge. Instead, the group is taking a close look at the Arizona Tax Research Association, which announced it will try to get the same regulations over secondary taxing districts such as flood control, public health, fire service and library districts.

“We're not opposed to some reasonable growth, which is what we're advocating,” said Kevin McCarthy, ATRA president. “We're looking at the districts that don't have levy limits or if they have anything it's a rate limit. But a rate limit doesn't protect the taxpayer from significant increases.”

Touring the Bullhead City branch of Mohave County Library Monday, Dist. 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell said the public needs to join with the supervisors in the fight against more tax limits.

“This strong lobbyist organization (ATRA) for the mining industry, oil companies and natural gas companies has a single purpose; cut the property tax costs to their large land parcels,” Sockwell said. “They did it to counties and community colleges last year and this year they plan on capping and/or reducing secondary tax rates. As powerful as these companies are, without mass opposition from people who value fire districts, school districts and library districts, they will be successful.”

“The goal of these elected officials, obviously, is to have as much access to the tax base as possible,” said McCarthy. “They don't believe it's a tax increase if the rate is the same. We think if value goes up 40 percent, we think it's a tax increase. That's the math I was taught. People have legitimate concerns over growth in taxes.”

ATRA is putting together its agenda for the 2007 session of the state Legislature, set to begin in January. The County Supervisors Association is doing the same.

“What we're doing now is analyzing the fiscal situation of those districts in the 15 counties to determine the impact,” said Craig Sullivan, CSA Executive director. “Then we will educate the legislators on the impact to their districts.”

“The Arizona Legislature giveth and taketh away,” Mohave County manager Ron Walker said in a prepared release. “Our state representatives and senators need to know that Mohave County residents value their fire and emergency services, schools and libraries and that the mining and oil companies' highly paid lobbyists should stop trying to defund local services.”

The Mohave County Library District operates large branches in Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City and Kingman plus community libraries in Meadview, Dolan Springs, Golden Valley, Valley Vista, Golden Shores and Mohave Valley. The bookmobile serves Wikieup, Cedar Hills, Yucca, Oatman, White Hills, Scenic and Beaver Dam/Littlefield.