YUHSD, county explain property tax situation
Click here for a copy of the Yuma County Tax Process pamphlet (PDF)
Instead of pointing fingers at one another, Yuma school districts and county administrators have worked to strengthen their partnership over the past two years to be more proactive about communicating with each other, and also with the public, about property taxes before tax bills are mailed out in the fall.
At a Yuma Union High School District board meeting Wednesday, Yuma County Assessor Joe Wehrle, Yuma County Administrator Robert Pickels and Yuma County Treasurer Angela Pancrazi Moreno were present to discuss the topic with the governing board.
It was shared that while the median sale price for homes in Yuma County is on the rise, there is a two-year lag time between current market conditions and the application of those conditions to the net assessed value of real property.
“Calendar year 2012 was the year in which the housing market began to rebound. Given the two-year lag time, net assessed values for property taxes should see a leveling off or increase in tax year 2014,” stated YUHSD. “Because real property values saw a drop again this year, reflective of the market conditions two years ago, we will want taxpayers to know that many tax rates will increase in the next tax year in order to maintain tax levies at the same level as the current tax year.”
Dianne Cordery, director of financial services at YUHSD, noted that the increase in tax rates doesn't mean that the district is overspending its budget. “It's not about us spending within our means — we're spending under budget.”
YUHSD Superintendent Toni Badone also said that while the district would have typically spent 75 percent of its Maintenance and Operations budget by this time of the year, it is currently only at 65 percent. She added that they have been very frugal with the district's funds and have leveraged every available strategy to keep tax rates from rising.
Additionally, Cordery said that based on last year's Annual Financial Report for all schools in Arizona, the district is far lower in terms of spending, assessed valuation and in terms of tax rates compared with other union high school districts in the state.
“When the assessed valuation overall goes down ... then what has to happen is the tax rate has to go up in order to generate the same amount of funds,” said Badone.
Wehrle said that one important point he stresses to those concerned about their tax bills is that when a property value goes down, that does not mean that taxes will go down because the limited property value is still going to go up per the statutory formula.
Local school districts and the county administrators have teamed up to send out a joint press release Monday to help better inform the public. A pamphlet created to help people better understand the property tax process can be viewed at www.YumaCountyAZ.gov/taxpage.
Pickels said they encourage the community to take a look at the information now and ask questions of them so they are well-informed before they receive their tax bills. While bills will not be released until the fall and their projections could change between now and then, it was important to all concerned that lines of communication were opened up sooner.
He said after many were caught off guard when they received a higher tax bill in 2011, having more information and resources available for the community to understand the process could have alleviated a lot of confusion.
“What we typically find, though, is that it's not relevant to people until they get their tax notice in the mail,” said Pickels.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858.