Setting the stage for revolt

East Valley Tribune
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Kevin McCarthy Editorial

With few exceptions, the seeds of property tax revolts are sown when elected officials demonstrate that they cannot be trusted with the extraordinary power granted to them through an ad valorem (valuation-based) property tax system. That demonstration was clearly on display at the recent Gilbert Town Council hearing to set the 2007 property tax rate.

Armed with knowledge that most residential property taxpayers saw an increase of 60 percent in their taxable values, four council members (Steve Urie, Linda Abbott, Les Presmyk, and Joan Krueger) voted to reap a tax windfall by leaving the property tax rate at $1.15.

To make matters worse, the rationale provided by those voting for the huge tax increase wasn’t simply that the voters have approved bonds for infrastructure improvements and they were merely carrying out the will of the voters.

With the cooperation of city staff, the advocates chose to pour salt in taxpayers’ wounds by trivializing the tax increase. First, staff attempted to minimize a 60 percent annual increase in property taxes by reflecting it in monthly terms.

And while it is accurate to note the town of Gilbert accounts for roughly 11 percent of current taxes, how that removes leaders from any responsibility for the tax increase escapes me.

In contrast, it is worth noting that that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors are voluntarily reducing their secondary tax rates for special districts in recognition of the sharp increase in values.

California’s Proposition 13 limited the aggregate tax on a property to 1 percent of value, effectively eliminating the authority of elected officials to set annual tax rates to fund ever-expanding budgets. Gilbert’s deliberations were evidence of the shell game that drives taxpayers to embrace such extreme measures.