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home : opinions : opinions May 29, 2016

8/16/2012 1:05:00 PM
My Turn: Prop. 117 does nothing to limit property taxes
Lynne Weaver
Lynne Weaver
Lynne Weaver

Arizona's property tax laws certainly need fixing. We have the most complicated and complex property tax system in the nation.

The system was created in 1980 by the Arizona Legislature to counter a citizens' initiative ballot measure attempting to bring Prop. 13 type tax limits to Arizona. The Legislators said they could do it better than the citizens and urged them to abandon their initiative. With random and arbitrary valuations and unpredictable tax bills, the resulting Legislators' system combines the worst of everything. It can't be fixed by mere tinkering. We need a fresh start.

Now, 32 years later in 2012, instead of the much-needed fresh start, the Arizona Legislature put Proposition 117 on the ballot, touting it again as true property tax reform. Unfortunately, Proposition 117 can be easily and clearly summarized: Proposition 117 does nothing to limit property taxes.

Crafted by the Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) and sponsored by Sen. Steve Yarborough, Prop. 117 maintains the current property tax system while misleading you into thinking something good has been done. ATRA is a lobbying organization, not a group working to lower or limit your taxes.

Prop. 117 limits valuation increases to no more than 5 percent per year but does nothing to limit tax rate increases. Taxing districts will still decide how much they want to spend, look at the total value of property within their district, divide one by the other to come up with a tax rate, and apply that tax rate to your assessed valuation to calculate your "share of the pie" that you must pay.

Prop. 117 will cause more distortion to the system and make your "share of the pie" even more unpredictable. Property taxes have never been about the value of your property. It's about how much the taxing districts want to spend. You could still have a 10% reduction in value and a 100 percent increase in your tax bill.

Prop. 117 does nothing to stop tax overrides put on the ballot by school districts. The maximum override used to be 10 percent but it was increased to 15 percent and a special election was held to allow the school districts to raise your taxes immediately. Will they increase overrides to 20 percent? 25 percent? More?

Prop. 117 does nothing to prevent creation of new taxing districts. When Maricopa County wanted to tax and spend more, they split off the county hospital and healthcare into a new and separate taxing district then crowed about reducing their tax rate. The two taxes added together exceeded the previous limits that were being skirted. Yavapai County could take the same type of action to create new taxing districts.

Prop. 117 does nothing to improve assessed valuation methods. Our current system produces random and arbitrary assessed values that in many cases are simply inexplicable.

Prop. 117 does nothing to limit bond debt placed on your property tax bill. There's no limit now on secondary tax increases and with Prop 117 there would still be no limit.

If you think the Legislature is interested in limiting your property taxes, just take a look at HB 2405 (go to AZLEG.gov) and you will put aside any such notion. HB 2405 would have doubled the bond debt capacity of every school district in the state. That alone would have doubled what is usually the 2nd largest item on your property tax bill.

Prop. 13 Arizona, a citizens' initiative for the 2014 ballot, is the fresh start we need. It uses purchase price (or decline-in-value provisions) as your tax basis, limits valuation increases to no more than 2 percent per year, and caps your total tax rate at 0.5 percent for all residential property or 1 percent for all other real property. No parcel taxes, no overrides or exceptions to the tax caps.

Vote No on Proposition 117. It does nothing to fix our broken tax system.

Lynne Weaver is chairman of Prop. 13 Arizona.

Related Stories:
• What is Proposition 117?

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, October 22, 2012
Article comment by: Been Taxed !

Prop 117 - Is nothing more than a regressive, Trojan Horse Proposition that favors the big boys. NO on Prop 117. Google "Property Valuation Limits" to see the independent studies. The Shift in taxes has already occurred with the under-valuation of the largest properties that have recently traded in the state. Check the top 100 sales that have occurred versus the 2013 assessments. Someone is already giving these guys decades of WINDFALL assessments that shifts the burden to guess who?

Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012
Article comment by: Jack Delsey

Lynn Weaver is a plain citizen, not a lawyer, politician or lobbyist. She is also a walking expert in taxes, and has researched the Arizona tax history and tax system down to the hidden tricks which allow politicians to apply just about as much tax on your property as they want, or claim they "need".
It is time for citizens to get control of our property taxes, and Prop 13 is a proven way to accomplish that task.

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