Serving Arizona State University Online Since 1995  Current Issue: Friday, April 06, 2007





Home values are up. Your taxes are, too.

 by Jonathan J. Cooper
 published on Friday, April 6, 2007

TEMPE TAXES: Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and Tempe City Council members listen to resident concerns regarding property tax rates at their Thursday meeting./issues/news/700675
Andrea Bloom / THE STATE PRESS
TEMPE TAXES: Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and Tempe City Council members listen to resident concerns regarding property tax rates at their Thursday meeting.


Property tax bills in Tempe will increase this year to pay for $150 million in construction and restoration for city facilities.

The city council did not increase the tax rate at its meeting Thursday. Rather, council members decided to keep the property tax rate at its current $1.40 per $100 of assessed home value.

Tempe home values increased on average by 47 percent over the previous year, according to data from the Maricopa County Assessor's Office. Therefore, tax bills will increase even though the tax rate stayed the same.

On a $194,000 house, city property taxes would increase by $62.72, according to city data.

City taxes are about 10 percent of a homeowner's total property tax bill. School districts and a hospital district make up the rest.

"Make no mistake," Mayor Hugh Hallman said. "We are imposing a property tax increase unless we act."

Council Member Shana Ellis joined council members Ben Arredondo, Barb Carter and Mark Mitchell in supporting a continuation of the current tax rate.

Three council members had advocated lowering the city's tax rate to offset homeowners' valuation increases. Council Member Onnie Shekerjian joined Vice Mayor Hut Hutson and Mayor Hugh Hallman in calling for a lower tax rate between $1.25 and $1.30.

A $1.20 tax rate would have been "revenue neutral," meaning the city would take in the same income as the previous year, according to an analysis by the city's Financial Services department.

In a discussion lasting 2 1/2 hours, council members hashed out the list of projects getting funding.

"This is a budget that is focused primarily on taking care of the infrastructure that was built over the last 30 years," said Will Manley, Tempe's city manager.

Among those expenses are $7.3 million for renovating for the Tempe Public Library, $6.2 million to renovate the police headquarters and $6.8 million to rebuild a fire station.

The fire station, located near Hardy Drive and Southern Avenue, has "serious deficiencies," Manley said. It is too small to safely house firefighters and has insufficient garage space.

The budget also includes $4.6 million for a new fire station in the city's southeast quadrant and $9.8 million for a new Fire Department support services facility.

In what Manley called "the most ambitious park program that we've ever had in this city," the budget includes nearly $30 million dollars for park repairs and rehabilitations citywide.

Before the council's discussion, Julie Lind, a Tempe resident, asked the council to approve as low a rate as possible.

The tax bill increase "is not the equivalent of a loaf of bread," she said. "It's the equivalent of a car repair or a few doctors visits."

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