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Sat, March 28

Lower rates won't mean reduced taxes for Verde Valley school districts
Higher values drive increase in property tax

When it comes to real estate taxes in Yavapai County, what you think you see most likely isn't what you'll get. Primary levies are down, pretty much across the board, but tax bills will increase for most homeowners.

Due to large jumps in property valuations, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors recently lowered the county's primary property tax rate. The board set that rate at $1.53 per $100 of assessed valuation. That is 8 percent less than last year's rate of $1.65.

Taxpayers in Jerome likely will see an increase in their tax bills due to increased valuation. But the town's primary tax levy stays at 0.8977. The Town Council approved that rate, which hasn't changed in more than 10 years, during its Aug. 14 scheduled meeting.

All school districts in the Cottonwood area will see the primary tax rates decrease. All but Mingus Union and Clarkdale-Jerome will also see the secondary rates decrease.

At Clarkdale-Jerome School District, the secondary tax levy will increase very slightly from 0.3434 to 0.3464. District business manager Kristy Aston said that is due to the override that voters approved. She said it is the first ever override for the district.

Homeowners in the Clarkdale-Jerome District will see the primary rate drop from 1.846 last year to 1.7417 for the current year. Aston said tax bills could still go up, even though levies have dropped. "That's because they're based on property values," she said.

Mingus Union High School District residents will see their secondary rate jump by 118.6 percent. It is up to 0.5143 for the current year from 0.2353 last year. But that shouldn't surprise any taxpayers or voters in the district. As district business manager Kirk Waddle pointed out, that increase in the secondary rate is mostly debt service for the $15 million renovation bond passed in November by district voters. It also includes the district's override and the Joint Technical Education District.

Waddle said the district's combined rate of both primary and secondary is down this year to 1.9963. That is a 1.8 percent decrease from last year's combined rate of 2.0332.

According to Waddle, the district's primary valuation increased by 14 percent, and the secondary valuation went up 20.8 percent.

And just as with all school districts, it is the valuation that drives the tax bills, even when rates come down.

The Mingus primary rate dropped for this year to 1.4820 from last year's 1.7979, a drop of 18 percent according to Waddle.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek District had a decrease in the primary tax levy from 2.0314 last year to 1.6527 this year. Secondary rates also dropped for district taxpayers from 0.7998 last year to 0.6596 for this year.

David Snyder, Director of Business Services for the district, agrees that most homeowners will probably see their tax bills go up instead of down. "If your property value doesn't change and the rate does, then your property tax will go down," he said. But he knows that won't happen in very many cases. "All property in Yavapai County has increased in value," he said.

Snyder explained that school districts are tied very closely to their budgets, plus their cash situation, when setting tax rates. He said the district has a cash surplus this year. "We don't have to make up for cash shortages."

Yavapai College also will see a decrease in both primary and secondary tax rates. The primary is down from 1.4308 last year to 1.3397 this year. The secondary rate has dropped from 0.2265 to 0.1828.

But that doesn't mean tax bills for the college will drop.

"The amount of the levy is increasing," said Bob Lynch, Chief Financial Officer for the college. "The law allows us to increase the levy by 2 percent each year." He said voters approved that in 2006.

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