Tax Whacks

Pima County Supervisors Boost The Primary Tax Rat Beyond the Legal Limit.

By Chris Limberis

PIMA COUNTY supervisors are groping to dodge a tax increase by cutting the record $747-million budget they blithely adopted last week.

But any cut they make when they adopt the final 1998-99 budget on August 4 will be meaningless to most homeowners.

Supervisors spent part of their time last week lamenting the budget increase, but jumped out of the way of any attempted cut. Instead, they boosted the county spending limit by $2.1 million, with $1.4 million going to the Tucson-Pima Library, a joint operation of the city and county. Democrat Sharon Bronson left the dais during the votes on the general budget categories, explaining to the public later that she had an important call to take.

Currents Hefty primary property taxes most school districts adopted, including the increased primary tax rates at Tucson Unified School District, will boost tax rates beyond a legal limit set by the state.

Supervisor Raul Grijalva, an unabashed tax-and-spend Democrat now in his third term, said he and his colleagues will work to cut about $4 million from the budget to save about 11 cents from the county's gorged primary property tax rate of $3.71.

The feeding of government is an arcane process, no doubt. But bear with us: Property taxes in Arizona are split into several categories, but are under two main sections: primary for daily operations, and secondary for voter-approved debt, or, in the case of the county, special services such as flood control and libraries. Tax rates are calculated for every $100 of a home or property's assessed value: Thus, the owners of a $100,000 home would pay $371 in county primary taxes.

The cut Grijalva and his Republican buddies on the Board of Supervisors, Chairman Mike Boyd and Ray Carroll, have talked about would not be felt by homeowners because of another bit of tax esoterica.

Primary taxes for all governments that prey on homeowners cannot top $10 per $100. And that's after the primary tax rate for schools is cut by 35 percent. For example, the $7.2388 primary rate adopted by the Tucson Unified School District board on July 7 is a net $4.70522 for homeowners.

Add that $4.70522 to the county's $3.71; the city's 14.28 cents; the state's 53 cents; and Pima Community College's $1.13 and the combined rate comes to $10.22 per $100. But state law will trim the direct payment for the homeowner from $1,022 to $1,000. The $22 in our example is covered by all state taxpayers, reducing the direct local burden.

In fact the county could boost its primary rate higher with no direct effect on local homeowners.

Meanwhile, Grijalva was successful in restoring the 4 cents that County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry lopped off the Library District tax rate of 22.24 cents. Huckelberry noted--to no avail--that the library's budget would still increase. The county's share, even with the lower 18.24-cent tax rate, would have meant a 6.5 percent increase, to $7.8 million.

Property owners will feel the exact pain shortly after Labor Day, when tax notices are mailed. For those with no patience, tax rates will be officially set August 17. TW

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