(Source: AZCentral): Catherine Reagor – Arizona property taxes are out in Phoenix metro area. Most homeowners should expect to pay more than they did last year.
But it all depends on where you live on whether your taxes are up by single- or double-digit percentage increases.
In addition to Maricopa County, cities, schools, water, fire, library and lighting districts tax metro Phoenix homeowners.
Maricopa County’s portion of property taxes is up 6 percent this year, according to my analysis of the latest report. But the county accounts only for about 12.6 percent of all property-tax bills.
Overall, the Valley’s more than two dozen cities and towns are levying about 5 percent more in property taxes than last year. City taxes account for about 11.2 percent of homeowners’ property taxes.
The big increases for most homeowners will come from public schools, including community colleges. About 64 percent of the typical property tax bill for a Phoenix-area homeowner goes to schools.
The cost of education
I am not knocking paying property taxes to help schools. Better schools make for better neighborhoods.
But for some homeowners, schools can be a real wild card on their property tax bill.
Teacher Larry Canepa’s property-tax bill on his north-central Phoenix home jumped 47 percent this year, mostly because of an 86.5 percent increase in what the Alhambra Elementary School District assessed him.
“I called the county office and got the predictable run-around,” he told me. “I am an educator and I know that throwing more money and taxes will not result in better schools.”
He plans on protesting at future school district meetings and asking for more “tangible explanations and sustainable solutions.”
One homeowner can easily be taxed by three different school districts.
Including school bonds and overrides, I have eight different education taxes on my current bill.
Difficulty in getting answers
Charles “Hos” Hoskins, the previous Maricopa County treasurer, went out of his way to alert reporters about tax bills. He confirmed my analyses on the many pages of tax levies and explained how the state’s complicated property tax system works.
He made the effort to help the county’s more than 1.5 million homeowners understand their tax bills.
Two weeks ago, I began trying to reach Royce Flora, the new Maricopa County treasurer, who took office in January. The number and email I had for Hoskins didn’t work, so I called the treasurer’s main line. The first time, I was on hold for more than 30 minutes, waiting, as many others tried to reach people at the office as well.
After multiple calls and emails to the treasurer, I received this response:
“Treasurer Flora does not trust the Arizona Republic and will not talk to them,” wrote Karen Smith, executive assistant to the treasurer. “Since your request refers to property-tax levies, we will see that it gets to the appropriate individual.”
I have never interviewed Flora before. And I didn’t hear back from the treasurer’s office again.
I have covered metro Phoenix property taxes for several years. If like me, you can’t reach anyone to answer questions at the treasurer’s office, perhaps this information will help.
If you don’t have a mortgage, your property-tax bill is mailed to your home. If you have a mortgage, then it’s mailed to your lender. You may never realize your property taxes are up until your mortgage payment goes up.
Go to https://treasurer.maricopa.gov/ to look up your latest property tax bill. If you don’t know the parcel number, the site will take you to Maricopa County Assessor’s Office to find it, so you can then look up your bill.
Property taxes are based on valuations done by the assessor 18 months before you get your bill.
Higher home values don’t necessarily mean higher taxes, however.
Property-tax rates are set by schools, the county, cities, fire districts and many more groups in the summer before you tax bill goes out.
Your assessed home value multiplied by the tax rate gives you the property-tax owed for each entity. Add up all the numbers, and that’s the full tax owed.
You can appeal your property valuations, but not your property taxes. If you want to protest tax rates, you need to do it during those summer meetings where they are set.