Jul 312013

By Nick Worth
A question about the Navajo County tax rate in the 2013-14 budget which was raised during the July 23 Board of Supervisors meeting has been answered.
At the meeting, Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA), questioned a discrepancy in the truth in taxation property tax rate for Navajo County of 69.04 cents and the budgeted rate of 69.96 cents.
ATRA is a self-described watchdog group, which has been active since 1940. The group calls itself “the largest and most respected independent and accurate source of public finance and tax policy information.” The group also represents taxpayers before policy makers at the state and local level.
When McCarthy raised the question of the discrepancy during the meeting, County Manager James Jayne said the intention of the board has been to adopt the truth in taxation rate.
Jayne also told The Tribune-News that, by law, the county’s tax rates would have to be adopted by the third Monday of August, leaving time to correct any discrepancies.
Last Thursday County Finance Director James Menlove said in an email to The Tribune-News that he had received correspondence from ATRA that morning saying the primary property tax rate that was used in the Navajo County adopted budget was correct.
“Navajo County will adopt a primary property tax rate of $0.6995 when tax rates are adopted in a couple of weeks,” Menlove wrote. “The one one-hundredth of a penny difference from the budget forms (69.96 cents) is due to a rounding difference.”
Menlove told The Tribune-News the county has not increased its tax rate.
“ATRA let me know they had miscalculated,” Menlove said. “It’s easy to do. It’s a complex process.
“Our tax rate is based on what it was in 1979-80,” Menlove said. “Since then, we have only been allowed a two percent increase per year.
“We have forgone that two percent increase, which we’re allowed by state law, since 2009.”
Menlove explained the 69.96 cent property tax rate is based on 2013 calendar year assessments and that those assessments have decreased.
Because of the decreasing valuation on properties, the tax rate goes up in order to collect the same amount of taxes, but the amount collected remains flat.
“We are not collecting more taxes,” Menlove said. “We have not increased the amount of taxes the county collects for the past four years.”
Menlove noted that there is a process to go through before the county can increase its tax levy.
“If you increase your tax levy you have to have a truth in taxation hearing,” Menlove added. “We are not increasing our tax levy.”
He explained that there are other entities that affect the total Navajo County tax bills.
“School districts and Northland Pioneer College make up the majority of your tax bill,” Menlove said. He also said other special districts, such as fire districts, also have an effect on what we pay.
“The county, in order to help the people who are hurting, has not increased the amount of taxes collected in the past four years,” Menlove concluded.