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Our View: County’s ‘magic money’ doesn’t raise taxes, it asserts

August 12, 2018 GMT

Mohave County government isn’t able to cover the checks it want to write. Here’s its solution:

• Increase the amount each homeowner pays in county property tax in the coming year.

• Profess the extra tax revenue didn’t come from increasing taxes, despite all evidence to the contrary.

• Project the extra tax revenue at around $1 million and, according to the county manager, expect this will cover some $4.3 million in what it calls “unfunded liabilities.”

There’s more than the usual government accounting pixie dust at work in all this. It may be the kind of dust that makes math not work and words not mean anything.

Whatever this illness is, it would be slightly amusing if it weren’t so horrible for taxpayers in the county. Furthermore, it’s catching.

Lake Havasu City did a similar thing last month. Mohave Community College did, too, though it went even higher and made no bones about a tax increase.

All these taxing authorities are getting great gifts this year because property valuations have increased so much around the county. Taxing bodies apply a levy against the valuation amount to determine tax payments.

In practice, at least, responsible governments increase levies when valuations decrease to keep revenue stable. When valuations rise, levies should go do absent a compelling reason for raising more money.

Neither the city nor the county did the latter, prompting considerable criticism. The criticism is warranted.

In both cases, it appears, the reason was simply because they could. In truth, the city’s amount is around $250,000, a mere drop in the proverbial budget bucket. Critics took aim at the appearance, not the substance.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors’ decision was a little different. It was more money. And the county says it has “unfunded liabilities,” meaning the county always needs more money because, well, it’s Mohave County and it always needs money.

Let’s hope the governing boards remember their own argument about how it’s not a tax increase if the mill levy doesn’t change. It will apply in reverse when property valuations decline and the governments cry they can’t afford a tax decrease. Even if they don’t remember, voters will.

— Today’s News-Herald