Who is responsible for raising your property taxes?


Dear Arizona Taxpayer:

Maricopa County Treasurer Hos Hoskins made headlines with the policy letter he included with recent property tax bills for Maricopa County residents.  (Note for those living outside of the “Great State of Maricopa”: this does apply to you, as well.)   Hoskins has re-opened an interesting policy debate about the extent to which property tax burdens have been shifted from business property taxpayers to residential property taxpayers (or vice-versa, depending on your point of view).  We have included some links below about that debate.

Setting aside the debate about the burden shift, Hoskins made a claim that is very counterproductive to the efforts of property taxpayers to fight for tax relief.   Multiple times in his letter, Hoskins made the following claim: “Voicing your opinion to anyone other than your legislators will change nothing.”

That claim is highly misleading.

Consider just a few examples from your property tax bill.  If you look closely, you will see several line-item levy amounts from several different local government taxing authorities: your K-12 school districts, your community college district, your city government, your county government, and multiple special taxing districts.  Each of those taxing districts have authority, completely independent of the state Legislature, to raise (or more rarely, lower) your property tax levy.

(Note: Always focus on the levy, which is the actual number of dollars you must pay, rather than the rate.  If local officials brag to you that they have lowered property tax rates, hold onto your wallet and ask them what is going to happen to your actual levy.)

Many Arizona school districts and municipalities have put budget override and bond measures on your November 3 ballot.  If passed by voters, those measures will increase your property tax bill.  Those measures were not placed on your ballot by the Arizona Legislature.  They are on your ballot, and driving up your tax bill, at the sole discretion of local elected officials.  Your school district board members are under no legal (or in our opinion, moral) obligation to try to push for an override.

For example, Phoenix Union school board members could have decided that spending $9,627 per student  (in current expenditures, not counting capital and other costs) is enough.  Even without the override, Phoenix Union will spend more than $9,000 per student – enough money to put two teachers in every classroom of 25 students and pay each of those teachers $75,000 per year.   Instead of trying to raise taxes via an override, the Phoenix Union board members could cut excess administration and other waste.  See our Phoenix Union flyer HERE, and contact us at bwitbeck@afphq.org if you want us to send you a flyer for your own school district.

We as citizens and taxpayers must hold the local officials in our cities, counties and school districts accountable for the dollars they choose to spend.  See AFP’s Local Government Scorecard to learn more about holding your local officials accountable.

Back to the interesting debate on the business-residential property tax levy shift…  For a defense of the shift and Proposition 117 (which passed in 2012), go here for the response of the Arizona Tax Research Association to the Hoskins letter.  Or go here for Senator Debbie Lesko’s response.

Boaz Witbeck
Arizona Policy Analyst
Americans for Prosperity

All Hands on Deck in Tempe! Rally To Stop The TUHSD Override!

By Peggy McClain

Are you tired of governments demanding more of your paycheck with negative results?

Say NO to Tempe Union High School Override (TUHSD)

All are invited to join us on Tuesday, 10-13-15 at 2 PM at the TUHSD office at 500 W. Guadalupe Tempe  85283 (NW corner of Guadalupe and Kyrene)

Let’s let the TUHSD Superintendent and Governing Board know they cannot fool us anymore.  Other districts will be taking notice as these override elections are occurring in many districts.

VOTE NO:  Why does TUHSD need 28,000 devices “for the students” if the student population is 13,600?

VOTE NO:  This is a permanent tax increase as overhead, staff, and increased bandwidth have not been budgeted for.

VOTE NO: There is NO PARENTAL CONTROL over who your student will interact with on-line nor what content your child will download.

VOTE NO: This tax increase WILL NOT lead to more money for teachers but will lead to a decrease in teachers.


Prop 104: Phoenix Doubles Budget!

By Tom Kouts

Original reasons given in support of the light rail:

  • pollution reduction
  • traffic congestion reduction
  • vehicles will be removed from the road

An environmental impact study, conducted by the city of Phoenix as a requirement by the Federal Transit Administration to receive more funding, revealed that light rail increased pollution and increased traffic congestion. It did remove one car in 2,500, which was more than offset by the reduction in lane-miles available. Light rail tracks remove one lane of traffic in each direction. The 2,499 cars remaining had to squeeze into fewer lanes.

Reasons now given for new Light Rail construction:

  • It provides jobs. Only if you work for one of the construction companies that are liked by city hall.
  • It returns $7 for every $1 invested. This is partly true for developers that buy land before the rail is built. These numbers come from taking credit for any company that changes its location in order to build along the tracks. No company is going to start up just to be next to a rail line.

Prop-104 is also being promoted because it will increase funding for pot holes and buses. They must be some fancy buses and pot hole repairs because Prop-104 will more than double the city budget.

The original reason for public transit is to help those people who do not have private cars. LR does not help them, at most, removes them from a bus and places them in a light rail.

The budget explodes next year and only gets worse in future years. We need to start marshalling our limited resources now in order to protect city buses and other services vital to our city.

NO on Prop-104.

Prop 104 Is WRONG

By Wm. T. (Sparky) Smith ’64


I am an appointed volunteer of the INNOVATION AND EFFICIENCY TASK FORCE. The I&E TF consists of volunteers and City employees. We spend hours and hours studying Phoenix departments, their operations and budgets looking for ways to cut expenses, to balance Phoenix’s budget, to keep taxes affordable.

Wrong Direction: WHY GO BACKWARDS?

More Light Rail will add MILLIONS to PHOENIX’S OPERATING BUDGET, undoing the $98 million in savings found by the I&E TF. This ever-increasing BUDGET HOLE leads TOWARD PHOENIX’S BANKRUPTCY!

This $30,000,000,000.00, yes “Billion” dollar Tax Package, the Mayor and the City Council, have BETRAYED the Taxpayers of Phoenix.

Wrong Tax: SALES TAX

By increasing by 70% the city sales tax portion that goes to support public transportation, city merchants will find competing more difficult; people will just buy in cheaper cities! The City recognized this: they exempted purchases of over $10,000 to keep from killing car sales in PHOENIX, “buying off” the wealthy car dealers at our expense!

Wrong Bond Package: LIGHT RAIL

Facing multi- million dollar budget deficits for the fore-seeable future because of UNION PENSIONS, why would PHOENIX triple the size of the “TAX DOLLAR BLACK HOLE”, light rail system?.” We have gone from Transit Busses that required a 35% tax subsidy to Light Rail that requires a 95% with no more riders. There is not one LR system in the country that is sustainable without massive local taxpayer subsidies; costing $MILLIONS & $MILLIONS, year after year!



VOTE NO! on PROP 104 !

A Very Concerned member of Phoenix’s INNOVATION and EFFICIENCY TASK FORCE

Prop 104: Phoenix Light Rail Continues to Operate At A Loss

By Tom Jenney

The Prop 104 tax increase would fund a gigantic $31 BILLION boondoggle – the largest tax-and-spend plan in Phoenix history. The proposal is light on real transportation, spending only a small fraction of revenues on street improvements. But the plan is heavy on light rail.

According to the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity (www.afpaz.com), light rail transit is far and away the most expensive and inefficient transportation option available to Phoenix commuters. As Valley Metro admitted in projections submitted to the federal government, light rail removes only about one car in 1,000 from traffic, doing nothing to improve traffic congestion. In fact, by blocking traffic flow in Phoenix, light rail actually makes traffic congestion and commuter pollution worse.

Fewer than one percent of Phoenix commuters use light rail. Most light rail riders are people who would otherwise ride buses. In the decade before light rail, Phoenix bus ridership increased by an average of five percent per year. Since the opening of light rail, bus ridership has fallen by ten percent. We need a transportation plan to help the 99 percent, not the one percent!

According to Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who opposes the proposal, the plan would spend over $161 MILLION per mile of track. That money could be much better used almost anywhere else. In government, that money would be better spent on road repairs, bus transit, education or police and fire services. In the private sector, that money could be used to start businesses and create jobs. Also, according to the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, Phoenix light rail has operating losses exceeding $10 million a year.

Please vote NO on Prop 104 to protect taxpayers and to improve transportation in Phoenix!

Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio: Vote NO on Prop 104!

By Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio

If you support education, please vote NO on Proposition 104.

According to Phoenix staff, light rail will cost $161 Million per mile. The $31.5 Billion tax will take needed monies from education and other higher priorities.

The same politicians and insiders who brought you the failed Sheraton and pension fiasco are now bringing you this rushed train tax increase.

The Sheraton has lost over $130 Million in value and pensions are draining millions from our police and fire services every single year.

Mayor Stanton rushed the tax increase and exempted big business, forcing small business to pay the full tax. According to a City of Phoenix staff report, exempting big business from the tax increase will cost you $300 Million more in interest expense. Big business is now pouring millions into the campaign to pass this tax increase.

Education is the highest priority in our city. This tax increase will take money away from education. One mile of rail could pay the salaries of over 2,900 teachers.

Phoenix must first get its financial house in order and restore fiscal responsibility and accountability.

This election is about the future of our great city. Phoenix can either choose a path like other bankrupt cities, or, you can send a message to leadership to get its financial house in order.

  • $31.5 Billion in new taxes
  • $161 Million – cost per mile to build rail
  • $300 Million in more interest expense by exempting big business
  • 2900 NEW teachers for the cost of just one mile of rail

I strongly urge you to vote NO on Proposition 104.

Four Reasons to Vote NO on Prop 104

By Bill Haynes

The people of Phoenix should vote “No” on Proposition 104 for many reasons. Consider these four.

First, the price tag is beyond huge, imposing a $31 billion tax burden on Phoenicians. Such a tax burden could be a direct assault on property values as future city councils seek funds to pay debt by considering property taxes.

Definitely, Proposition 104 is an assault on the paychecks as it calls for still another increase in the city’s sales tax, which would put it near the highest rate in the US for major cities.

Second, while proponents of light rail gleefully point to business development after construction is completed, they never discuss the number of businesses that were destroyed during construction and the businesses that suffer reduced traffic because of now being less accessible.

Third, light rail proponents like to say that is reduces air pollution by taking autos off the streets. Fact is, less than one in a thousand (0.1%) is the auto reduction because of light rail in Phoenix. Further, advocates ignore that because of light rail it sometimes takes 3-1/2 minutes to make a left turn on Central Avenue, a development that adds to air pollution.

Finally, Prop 104, regardless of what proponents say, is not about “expanded transportation options for the people of Phoenix,” but is about massive contracts for companies in the light rail construction industry, which are the primary funders of the Pro-104 movement.

Phoenicians need to recognize that they are being taken for a ride with Prop 104. By voting it down, they will safeguard their pocketbooks and their property values.

Prop 104: Burning Questions for Prop 104 Proponents and Shills

By Becky Fenger

Since most Phoenicians simply want the potholes in our neighborhoods filled and the streets we use improved, why are we being forced to accept more light rail extensions that will cannibalize the bulk of the money for these desired repairs?

Since most voters would rather have new freeways than we would bike paths or beautification of walking paths, why are we forced to pay for both?

Vote No on Prop 104

Voters would prefer to get a menu of options that we can vote up or down rather than be forced to pay $31.5 billion for everything on some city official’s Wish List. Why are we given this all-or-nothing plan and threatened with horror stories if we vote No? Should citizens be indebted just to bloat a transit bureaucracy?

Why is almost everyone who is publicly touting this ballot measure getting paid or enriched in some way?

Why have the Valley media kept Valley Metro’s own figures under wraps that show building more light rail transit at grade level will give us more pollution and congestion?

When the first twenty miles of light rail gave us massive deficits, why would we as straight thinkers vote to triple that debt?

Why was the Committee that was formed to oversee this plan given unrestricted authority to change the promises made to voters in this ballot measure if Prop 104 passes? What recourse do we voters have down the line when money is transferred from road improvements or bus rapid transit to expensive light rail?

Why would the City of Phoenix, buried under massive unfunded pension debt, hatch a plan that incurs huge interest payments?

Since I have not heard any answers to my questions, I must vote “NO”

Member of Citizens Commission of the Future of Phoenix Transportation – Vote NO on Prop 104

By Roy Miller

I was on the Citizens Commission of the Future of Phoenix Transportation. I voted NO on the Commission recommendation for allocating 30 billion dollars to a wasteful shopping list of transportation schemes. The most wasteful is the $160 million per mile that the Commission voted to extend light rail. Passenger rail is a 19th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. The future of transportation is NOT mass transit but rather individual transit. This includes small automobiles, autonomous vehicles, on-demand services such as Uber or Lyft, and a number of other transportation innovations. These ideas received little attention in our committee. How did this happen? The chair of our committee essentially let the City of Phoenix transportation staff run the meetings. Their presentations of various spending needs took up most of every meeting. There was very little time for discussion and no overall plan to vote on until the last meeting. As a matter of fact, there was not a single vote taken by the whole commission on anything until the end. There is no way that such a process could have produced anything resembling a comprehensive, long-term plan. And, consequently, there wasn’t one; just a 30 billion dollar shopping list that was hurriedly rushed to voters. Influential big spenders wanted an off-election year vote and the election held at an odd time because that is how the special interests gain the upper hand. The special interests are the ones who will be at the receiving end of the 30 billion dollars. I suggest that you vote NO and decide for yourself how to so spend those dollars.

No on Prop 104

Prop 104: Wrong For Phoenix

By Shawnna L.M. Bolick
A Concerned Taxpayer with Children

Phoenix will be headed the way of Detroit if Phoenix voters aren’t prudent with our taxpayer dollars.

In August 2015, Phoenicians face a $31 BILLION DOLLAR TAX INCREASE if this behemoth of a proposition passes.

This proposal establishes light rail in suburban areas that won’t ever support such expansions and disrupt major arteries while they are laying track.

If there is something to learn from previous light rail construction, many small businesses went bankrupt or closed because they couldn’t sustain the road closures surrounding their businesses.

This proposed light rail project wildly benefits the fat cats of the City of Phoenix, not you and me. Even more devastating, small businesses would shoulder the brunt of this massive tax, not profitable corporations that might be able to afford $161 MILLION PER MILE to lay new track.

I think we can all agree that fiscal sanity needs to be restored at City Hall. Yet, these same politicians know from past experience that the timing of this August ballot measure is ripe to ask for a very large tax increase because a majority of registered voters either skip the off-year municipal election or have no idea an election is even taking place.

Do you want the city telling you or your grandchildren how to redirect your disposal income?

In order to keep Phoenix a world-class city, we need to ensure Proposition 104 fails at the ballot box.

Please join me in defeating this ill conceived tax scheme that further hampers our ability to invest resources where we deem fit.

Please make sure to vote NO on Proposition 104 (a.k.a. the train tax) this August.