One of the biggest lies local governments like to tell is that they’re not raising your taxes. We heard it over and over again this year as various local governments plotted out their budgets for the year ahead. And yet, if you’re a property owner in Lake Havasu City, you will definitely pay more taxes next year than you did the year prior. It’s all thanks to rising home values, which give local governments some cover to take more of your money without having to do anything except publish a truth-in-taxation notice. When the economy’s bad and homes are losing value, taxing authorities often increase levies to keep revenue stable. When the economy is good, those same taxing authorities stay silent, content to let the rising property values add a surplus to local budgets. It’s a pretty good racket.

In Mohave County, which has a $6 million budget surplus left over from the year before, it’s simply insulting to taxpayers that the Board of Supervisors didn’t lower the tax rate. To be fair, the two supervisors representing Lake Havasu City made it an issue this year, but they were outnumbered by their counterparts on the board who rarely seem to come across a spending proposal they don’t like. It’s refreshing that supervisors Buster Johnson and Ron Gould voted against the county because of the tax rate. Gould pointed out that the county’s surplus from a year ago could have continued to serve county residents while keeping taxes low for property owners.

That said, there are things to like about the county budget that involve increased spending, mainly in the sheriff’s department. Sheriff Doug Schuster has pushed hard this year for more personnel in his depleted ranks, and we’re glad to see his requests are being taken seriously. However, we suspect that Mohave County could have taken care of Schuster’s demands even without the increased revenue from property owners.

Hopefully next year, assuming economic trends stay the same, one of those supervisors will put a tax rate decrease on the table. Then, when they say they’re not raising your taxes, they’ll be telling the truth instead of hoping you simply won’t notice that your tax bills are higher.

— Today’s News-Herald


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