Property taxes increasing again for Pima County

Property taxes increasing again for Pima County

PIMA COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Property taxes are increasing in Pima County, but the county said it's not to blame.

The rate will hover just below $6 per hundred assessed valuation at $5.96.

That's nearly twenty cents higher than last year, but county officials said the majority of the increase is because the state, in its zeal to say it does not raise taxes, has shifted millions of dollars back to the county.

Education, jail costs, juvenile corrections and health care costs, which should be paid for by the state, have become the responsibility of the county taxpayer.

"A third of our property taxes go back to the state for state services," said Board Chair Sharon Bronson. "It shouldn't be that way."

Bronson said if the state would hold up its end of the bargain, Pima County would be in the middle of the pack property tax wise, rather than having to endure being known as "the county with the highest property tax rate in the state."

The vote for the property tax package was not close to unanimous, a 3-2 vote with the three Democrats in favor and the two Republicans against.

The vote highlights political differences and political preferences.

"It's the highest tax rate ever in Pima County," said District 1 Republican Ally Miller. "I believe we should have looked more at spending cuts."

But it's not actually the highest rate.

It was $6.03 in 2001, but it was measured in a different way and at a time when the assessed valuations were lower, so it's hard to compare apples to apples.

Miller said by raising the taxes rather than cutting spending, the county is taking the easy way out.

"With this economy in Pima County not recovering, I think its time we start looking inward and realize how we can cut and make reductions in spending," she said.

And she has support in the many corners of the community.

Lou Sampson, who started the organization called the "Scam Squad" in Green Valley, said she thinks "it's a crime."

She said many of the people in Green Valley, which has been hard hit by the economy and low interest rates, can't afford another property tax increase.

"That's my money," she said. "That's my hard earned money."

Sampson said by making it a point to attend Supervisors meetings, she has learned so much about the process here.

"We're in the county," she said of Green Valley. "And so the only thing we can control is the county."

Bronson is also not a big fan of some who say the property taxes can be lowered by diversifying the tax base.

Other counties have a sales tax and Pima County is the only one which does not.

"A tax is a tax is a tax," she said, adding she believes a sales tax to increase revenue "would be a wash."

She's hoping, as are others in the county, that a lawsuit against the state questioning the transfers is successful.

The county has pledged to cut property taxes if the lawsuit is successful.

As far as the increase in taxes, she said she thinks "it's justifiable because the state has been consistently shifting costs to us."

The county then shifts those costs to the taxpayer.

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