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Tempe moves closer to property tax rate increase

14 comments by Dianna M. Náñez - Jun. 3, 2011 01:40 PM
The Arizona Republic

Tempe is one step closer to approving a 39-cent per $100 assessed valuation property tax rate increase.

After hearing comments on the rate increase Thursday night, the Tempe City Council faces a final hearing to adopt the property tax rate on June 16.

Although the council also adopted a tentative budget for fiscal 2011-12, much of the council's attention was focused on the property tax rate.

At Thursday's council meeting, Mayor Hugh Hallman explained the impact on the community of raising the rate to $1.79 from $1.40 per $100 of assessed valuation.

"What we are doing, actually, is creating a tax cut," Hallman said.

Hallman explained that if you factor in the new property on the tax roll and subtract that amount from the total property taxes the city collects if the rate is raised to $1.79, Tempe would actually collect about $300,000 less next year compared with last year.

But a small group of fiscal conservatives say they are more concerned about what the rate increase will do to individual taxpayers' bills.

At past meetings residents calculated what they would pay if the rate is approved and showed the council that their bill is actually poised to go up.

The Tempe Republic earlier this week calculated the impact of the rate increase on the City Manager Charlie Meyer and City Council members' property tax bills. The valuations, projected valuation and tax bills were based on Maricopa County Assessor's Office public records.

Based on that data, six of the eight city officials would see an increase in their tax bill if the $1.79 rate is approved.

Hallman and Councilman Corey Woods property values had fallen so steeply that their tax bill would decrease slightly.

At Thursday's meeting, one Tempe homeowner said that she lived on a fixed income and could not afford any increase in her bill. She asked Hallman to "please" tell her if her property taxes would increase if the city approves the rate.

"I can't tell you whether yours are. All we can do is fix (the amount the city collects)," he said.

Hallman stressed that a policy that would limit future property tax rate increases, which the council adopted Thursday, would assure residents that the amount of secondary property taxes the city is collecting would remain tied in future years to the amount Tempe needed to collect to pay debt on bonds.

Tempe resident Darlene Justus thanked the council for adopting a policy that would protect taxpayers from paying high tax bills if property valuations skyrocket as they did during the past real-estate boom.