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Chino Valley streets would benefit from proposed increase in property taxes, say town officials

Chino Valley resident Marion Freeman, left, asks town officials – Public Works Director Frank Marbury, Finance Director Joe Duffy, and Town Manager Cecilia Grittman – about a recurring road problem that he said exists on Road 2 North. The Town of Chino Valley conducted a public informational meeting at the Chino Valley Church of the Nazarene Thursday, Jan. 17, on the proposed increase in property taxes to pay for improved maintenance on town streets. (Cindy Barks/Review)

Chino Valley resident Marion Freeman, left, asks town officials – Public Works Director Frank Marbury, Finance Director Joe Duffy, and Town Manager Cecilia Grittman – about a recurring road problem that he said exists on Road 2 North. The Town of Chino Valley conducted a public informational meeting at the Chino Valley Church of the Nazarene Thursday, Jan. 17, on the proposed increase in property taxes to pay for improved maintenance on town streets. (Cindy Barks/Review)

The average Chino Valley homeowner could expect to pay an additional $226 per year — an average of $18.84 per month — for the next 20 years if a property-tax increase gets voter approval in May.

The additional $1.5 million or so in annual revenue would be earmarked to make inroads into the town’s growing list of street-maintenance needs.

That was the word from three Chino Valley town officials Thursday evening, Jan. 17, during an informational meeting on the tax-increase measure that will appear on the town’s May 21 mail-in ballot.

While the proposal generated some support from the audience, it also raised concerns about the town’s residents who live on Social Security, for whom an extra $18 or so a month on a mortgage payment would be a burden.

Town Manager Cecilia Grittman responded that the Town Council members understand those concerns, and that the May vote is intended to gauge the community’s support.

Town officials say the idea for the tax arose from ongoing comments from residents who say the town needs to do more to keep its streets in good condition.

Over the past several months, a number of public meetings have occurred on the proposed property tax, Grittman said. “We’ve talked to about 300 people, and what I hear is ‘we need a solution for the roads, but we just don’t know if we want more taxes,’” she told the audience.

Audience member Roy Fay, who lives in Prescott but owns commercial property in Chino Valley, said, “To me, this needs to be done.”

Chino Valley Public Works Director Frank Marbury and Finance Director Joe Duffy explained that the goal for the town’s 153 miles of existing roads is to treat the surfaces at least once every seven years.

Current finances fall far short of that, they said.

With the roughly $400,000 in Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) that the town has available for road maintenance each year, Marbury said, the schedule allows for surface treatments such as chip-sealing about once every 50 years.

“The bottom line is it’s not enough,” Duffy said.

The town’s repair costs over the next 20 years are estimated at $16 million for arterial/collector streets and $16 million for residential/rural roads, for a total of $32 million.

If the tax-increase measure passes, the town estimates revenues of $1.5 million from the property tax levy each year, in addition to the $400,000 from HURF. Of the $1.9 million total, $1.6 million per year would go to maintenance, and $300,000 would go toward needed upgrades.

If the property-tax measure is approved by voters in May, Grittman said, “Technically, (the first annual payment) would come in the October (2019) tax payments.”

Residents whose property tax is a part of their mortgage payments would pay an average of $16.41 more per month, according to the town’s estimates, based on a $200,000 market-value home ($100,000 “total value”). The starting date of those payments would be dependent on the individual lending companies.

The town plans to begin doing the first round of chip-sealing this summer if the measure passes, Grittman added.

The amount of the tax would vary from property to property, based on the value and type of use. For commercial property, the average annual cost of the tax would be $1,584, and for vacant land, the average cost would be $59 per year.

Town officials emphasized Thursday that the revenue from the property tax would be reserved for road work, and would be kept in a separate fund. An annual report be published on how the money was used.

Also on the May ballot will be a measure that would give the town the authority to buy water systems if one becomes available.

That measure would not come with a tax increase, Grittman said, noting that the town would be eligible for low-interest loans through the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA), which could be paid back through monthly water rates.

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