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Fri, Sept. 20

Humboldt School board may raise property tax

The HUSD school board may raise local property taxes to stretch state construction dollars for the new high school a little further.

By invoking the Adjacent Ways tax assessment law, the board is considering passing from $711,000 to $1 million dollars in new school construction costs onto local property owners.

"The taxpayers are going to scream about it, but at least they're not paying for a school and Adjacent Ways," board member Barbara Jernigan said at the Tuesday, June 5 public meeting. "It's a smaller bit and a million dollars divided up by the big population of Prescott Valley won't be too bad."

The board must vote on the matter no later than the July 24 scheduled public meeting.

Two years ago the state eliminated school district bonding for school construction - and subsequent increases in local property taxes to pay the bonds - in favor of charging the School Facilities Board with determining and funding district needs with state tax dollars. But a loophole that HUSD Planning Principal Ron Maughan called "a little-used law" still allows the school board to increase property taxes to pay for construction of "sidewalks, sewers, utility lines, roadways and other related improvements," according to the law.

ARS 15-995, the Adjacent Ways tax law, gives the school board the power to construct "public ways" adjacent to any property owned or leased by the district, and to pass on that cost to school district residents in the form of additional property tax ("secondary tax rate").

Maughan said that using Adjacent Ways money for laying in utilities, a fire lane, water lines, and a sidewalk to access the new high school would leave that much more SFB money for other aspects of new school construction. But the school board doesn't have long to consider the proposal.

"The Adjacent Ways Taxation process is quite simple," Maughan told the school board. "In July, when we are adopting the 2001/2002 budget, we indicate on the State Budget Revenue forms the estimated revenue needed for the identified eligible (Adjacent Ways) projects. We then conduct a separate Adjacent Ways hearing at the same meeting in which we conduct our district budget hearing. The revenue forms are then sent to the County Board of Supervisors who in turn set the district secondary tax rate. The funds come directly from the county to the district."

Maughan said the school district still has about $155,000 left over from a previous Adjacent Ways project. Though he could not identify the specific project, Maughan said the money is definitely there.

"Any unused Adjacent Ways money just sits there until another project comes up that qualifies for it," Maughan said. But once the district uses up that $155,000, the school board can assess the remainder, so long as it meets the law's criteria.

Engineer Carl Rockwell of Claycomb/Rockwell/Woodson Associates, Inc. told the school board the utilities, fire lane, water line, and sidewalk installation at the new high school will cost about $866,000.

The board is considering applying either that estimate, or a Valley school district benchmark of $1 million Adjacent Ways tax assessments for high school construction to HUSD property owners.

"I recommend the board assess whatever the engineer's estimate is for the costs of sewer, fire lane, water lines, and sidewalks, minus the $155,000 we already have," Maughan said.

According to the county treasurer's office, the school district is responsible for determining the tax increase property owners will pay under Adjacent Ways. HUSD Business Manager Gail Woods said a tax assessment of $750,000, after subtracting the $155,000 Adjacent Ways money already available, would raise the secondary tax rate on a $100,000 home by $34 for one year.

The matter was on the meeting agenda for discussion only, but the board must vote on the Adjacent Ways assessment at the same July meeting when it adopts the 2001/2002 budget. The only scheduled school board meeting in July is on Tuesday, the 24th.

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