Guest Commentary – How to Bring Your Property Taxes Under Control

How to Bring Your Property Taxes Under Control

By Chad Kirkpatrick and Tom Jenney

If you are not angry about your property tax bill, you probably haven’t studied it yet. Many Arizona homeowners are seeing their property tax bills go up by hundreds of dollars. For many—especially older people on fixed incomes—exploding property tax bills will force some tough tradeoffs. In extreme cases, increased property taxes may force people out of their homes.  

There are ways you can minimize your property tax bill, though. Courtesy of the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers, a state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, here are four steps you can take to bring your property taxes under control:  

1)  Demand that your taxing district officials lower their rates.  

You will have to contact your county supervisors, city councilmen, school district board members, and the members of your water and library districts—among other local taxing authorities. Instructions on how to find and contact your taxing district officials are available at http://www.aztaxpayers.org/TaxDistricts.pdf.  

When you contact your elected officials, you should ask them three questions:  

A)  What is the current tax rate for this taxing district?

B)  How low must the rate go to keep me from paying more dollars than I paid last year?

C)  How far will you reduce the tax rate? 

Make sure you do your homework before asking those questions. Some elected officials have boasted to taxpayers that they have cut their rates by a few pennies. If officials actually need to lower their rates by a few dimes, they are not doing taxpayers much of a favor. In many of the districts subject to uncapped secondary valuations, tax rates may have to fall at least 30 percent to keep taxpayers from suffering from tax increases.  

2)  Vote against ALL new taxes, new bonds, and budget overrides.  

The next special election is Tuesday, May 15. In Maricopa County, there will be bond votes in Avondale, Chandler, Glendale, and Queen Creek, and budget override votes in Cave Creek Unified #93, Kyrene Elementary #28, Littleton Elementary #65, and Nadaburg Elementary. In Pima County, there will be budget override votes in Marana Unified #6, Sunnyside Unified #12, and Tanque Verde Unified #13. Contact your county recorder’s office for details. 

3)  Pressure your state legislators to restrain local taxing authorities.  

The Arizona Legislature did a great job last year by (temporarily) zeroing out the county education equalization rate, putting Proposition 101 on the November ballot, and enacting a ten-percent cut in the personal income tax. One of the best arguments for a further reduction in the state income tax is that homeowners will need that extra cash just to pay their local property tax bills! 

4)  Work hard to get Serious Tax Reform passed on the 2008 ballot.  

This is far and away the most important thing you can do. There are currently at least two committees at work crafting ballot initiatives that will incorporate elements of California’s famous Prop 13 tax reform. The most important element of any Serious Tax Reform proposal is to put a firm limit on the growth of all property tax revenue going to all taxing districts from all classes of property, including business property. This can be done by limiting the growth in assessed values or by limiting total levies—or both.  

One model for Serious Tax Reform is SCR1025, a legislative referendum bill introduced by Sen. Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu). The bill would limit future growth in assessed value to two percent per year for all classes of property. The referendum passed the Senate last year, but was stifled in the House.  

Thanks to Prop 13, California was successful in clamping down on runaway increases in property taxes. Where California failed was in allowing other taxes to increase in the place of property tax levies. Arizona has a strong advantage thanks to Prop 108, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase state taxes.  

Taxpayers must take action. 

Left to their own devices, Arizona’s local politicians will do very little—if anything—to lower their tax rates or restrain their spending. As usual, taxpayers must protect themselves. The Arizona Federation of Taxpayers is ready to help, but it’s really up to you! 

–Chad Kirkpatrick is chairman, and Tom Jenney is executive director, of the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers (www.aztaxpayers.org), a state chapter of Americans for Prosperity (www.americansforprosperity.org).


Leave a Reply