Property tax rate to go up but actual tax burden to decline
A clearly confused Yuma City Council — and likely their constituents — grappled with how an increase in the property tax rate could actually amount to a tax decrease.
It's all tied to the primary property tax levy, which is the amount of total revenue the city expects to collect through the tax, and the assessed valuations of people's properties, explained Pat Wicks, city finance director in his annual property tax levy 101 course.
He said the budget adopted by the council during its meeting Wednesday evening is based in part on an anticipated $9.5 million property tax levy, the same amount as in fiscal year 2012-13.
This estimate is derived from the assessed valuation as of Feb. 10, provided by the Yuma County Assessor, and multiplied by a tax rate of $1.7387 on each $100 of assessed valuation for the coming year. This tax rate compares to $1.5787 for the current fiscal year.
While that may seen like a tax increase, Wicks said, it's actually a tax decrease because of declining assessed property valuations on which the tax is levied. He noted that valuations are down 10 percent from the previous year.
What will keep the levy the same is an increase in the city's property base through new construction that will provide nearly $110,000 in “new” taxes, he said. He also noted that the number of properties in the city has more than doubled over the last 15 years. As a result the individual taxpayer's burden has gone down from an average property tax of $252.99 15 years ago to the current $249.75.
Wicks further noted that the city's levy is $1 million less than the maximum allowed by the state.
In the end, the council adopted the final budget, with Mayor Al Krieger casting the lone no vote because of concerns he expressed earlier about the city's continuing to provide funding to outside agencies. The budget sets a cap on expenditures to include an operating budget of $155.3 million and capital improvement program budget of $33.7 million.
The council also introduced an ordinance to set the tax levy as recommended. The measure will be adopted when the council next meets, which will be July 17.
Because of the July 4th holiday the week of the next scheduled council meeting, the council voted to cancel the July 2 work session and the July 3 regular meeting.
In other action, the council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance authorizing the purchase of 49 acres of farmland for $1.62 million from John and Yvonne Peach. The parcel at the northwest corner of Pacific Avenue and 8th Street is slated for future development by the city of an athletic complex initially with two regulation-size softball fields.
The action was encouraged by Linda Jordan, executive director of the Yuma Visitors Bureau, on behalf of the agency and the hospitality industry.
“Sports tournaments are a great tool to attract people,” she said, but the lack of regulation fields is holding back that effort. “I believe this will help attract events, even nationally.”
With the location near hotels and restaurants, she said, the complex will give back to the industry that collects the 2 percent hospitality tax that raises revenue for parks and recreation facilities, among other things.
Councilman Jerry Stuart observed that when voters in 2009 approved extending the special tax for 15 years, they were promised more soccer and softball fields would be built.
Gregory LaVann of Greater Yuma Economic Development, added his voice to support of the project, saying that quality of life has become a critical factor in attracting new businesses to Yuma as well as the work force they will need.
During call to the public, supporters of a program to trap, neuter and release feral cats into controlled colonies again appealed to the city to review its policy regarding $20 vouchers given to offset the cost of turning in trapped feral cats to the Humane Society of Yuma. Usually those cats end up being euthanized.
People should have a choice of applying that $20 toward the cost of sterilizing the cats, the TNR supporters urged.
In response, Councilman Cody Beeson requested that the item be placed on the next council agenda for discussion and possible action.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6853.