Steven Robinson: We didn’t raise the rates, just your taxes!

August 21, 2018

By Steven Robinson

District 1 Director, Mohave County Republican Party

Recently, the County Supervisors adopted the FY2019 budget, and the board was extremely proud. After all, as “fiscally conservative” Republicans, they toed the line by not increasing the County’s Primary property tax for the third consecutive year.

Bullhead City Supervisor Hildy Angius emphasized that fact, feeling quite pleased with herself.

How times have changed. Just a few years ago, candidate Angius saw how deceptive rate changes were. In an era of (artificially) increasing home values, the property tax rate was forced downward because of the 2 percent limit on levy increases.

The county’s historic $1.75 per $100 assessed value was forced down to $1.26.

Despite lowering rates, the tax collections more than doubled by 2012, to $35.2 million. Critics correctly pointed out that the total property taxes had increased, despite the rate decrease.

Fortunately, the newly elected board reduced the actual levy from the 2012 peak to $31.5 million in 2015. Supervisors Angius, Joy Brotherton and Steven Moss successfully lowered the total tax burden on the people. Sadly, with Brotherton’s passing, fortunes changed with the appointment and subsequent election of Jean Bishop as supervisor.

The board’s new majority of Bishop, Buster Johnson, and Gary Watson raised the FY2016 property tax rate 15 cents to the current rate $1.9696. But real property taxes have jumped from $31.5 million to $35.7 million for 2019, $500K more than 2012 record.

All supervisors voted for this budget, so they own it. The question is: can they justify it?

County management lectures us that, in a growing economy, more government services (hence revenues) are needed. Funny, they also said that during the recession! They instinctively justify more tax revenue.

County Manager Mike Hendrix has stated in the last four budget proposals that Mohave County citizens are undertaxed. He wrote, “The current tax rate of $1.96 is 53 cents below the maximum rate of $2.49. This amounts to about $9 million annually in missed revenue opportunity but represents significant savings to taxpayers. While this appears to be a great deal for citizens and property owners, the lack of action to adopt a tax rate and levy commensurate with the incremental growth allowed by the property tax and truth-in-taxation statutes of 2 percent may result in lower costs now but higher costs in the future…”

The county says we’re “undertaxed” by $9 million. If those “cowardly” supervisors were thinking straight, they’d raise the rates! The county manager ignores the fact that revenues from other sources have skyrocketed.

State shared Sales Tax and Vehicle License Tax are up 35 percent and 20 percent, respectively, from the recession lows. In fact, the general fund balance has more than doubled since 2015, from $12 to $31 million, despite $5 million increased outlays.

Supervisor Angius shouldn’t ask “…is the rate unchanged?” Instead, “Are we solving problems of public safety and critical infrastructure?”, or “Why is there so much money?” When she and the other Supervisors start addressing those issues, they’ll have something to brag about.

They might be Republicans, but are they really conservative?

Steven Robinson can be contacted at 928-279-1411 or steverob.mcgop@gmail.com.

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