Please be advised that the November 4th School Governing Board Meeting has been
rescheduled to Wednesday, November 5th, at 5:30 PM, in the District Office Board Room.
Teachers Learning - Dismissal at 1:00 p.m for Elementary & Middle School Students
and 12:30 p.m. for High School Students
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please contact the New Student Center at (520) 224-2446. Thank you!
The following article is "Courtesy of the Herald/Review, written by reporter Dana Cole"
TAX HIKE HITS PROPERTY OWNERS
The following article is "Courtesy of the Herald/Review, written by reporter Dana Cole"
TOMBSTONE — As property owners in the Tombstone Unified School District receive 2014-2015 tax rates from Cochise County, they are seeing a school tax rate increase from the previous year.
The rate for Tombstone School District jumped from 3.12 in 2013-2014 to 5.82 in 2014-2015, reflecting a 2.70 rate increase. It’s an increase that is not sitting well with some property owners, with the school district office fielding calls from residents with questions.
While a number of factors played into the tax hike, a comparison of districts throughout the county shows that Tombstone’s tax rate falls right in the middle of what property owners in other districts are paying. And with just a few exceptions, nearly every school district in Cochise County is going through a property tax increase, some more significant than others. In addition, nine of the 22 school districts in Cochise County have tax rates that are higher than Tombstone’s. An easy formula for determining the amount a homeowner will be paying for the school tax is to take an assessed home value of $100,000 and multiply that by the tax rate. In Tombstone’s case, with a tax rate of 5.8, the homeowner’s tax bill will be $580.
Information provided by the Cochise County School Superintendent’s office shows that the Bowie Unified School District has the highest tax rate in the county at 11.10. The Arizona Property Tax Oversight Commission has frozen Bowie’s rate to that amount to prevent further property tax increases, so the 11.10 is consistent with 2013-2014, said Susan Arndt, chief deputy of the county school superintendent’s office. Double Adobe School District jumped from a rate of 4.99 to a whopping 9.85, reflecting a 4.85 rate increase. While San Simon managed to hold its property tax rate at 8.93, the same as the previous fiscal year, that district reflects the county’s third highest rate.
St. David School District property owners went from a 3.64 rate in 2013-2014 to 5.77 for a 2.13 rate increase. In addition, St. David’s property owners will be paying for continuation of a voter approved budget override that creates a secondary tax, apart from the primary property tax rate. The additional money is used to fund programs and staffing the district wanted for its students, with support from the community through voter approval.
Neighboring Pomerene School District also experienced an increase, from 5.14 to 7.31, up 2.17 percent.
Benson Unified School District’s 2014-2015 tax rate is up slightly from last year. The district went from a 6.05 rate to 6.98, reflecting a slight rate increase of 0.92. Benson is another district with a voter approved budget override continuance that provides funding for extra programs and activities to benefit the students. Again, the budget override reflects a secondary tax rate for property owners and is not part of the primary property tax.
Douglas and Willcox schools also experienced significant increases, with Douglas climbing from a rate of 1.99 to 6.18, reflecting a 4.19 jump, while Willcox went from 4.74 to 8.47, or a 3.72 rate increase. Both districts also have secondary tax rates.
The rate for Bisbee School District actually dropped from 5.55 in 2013-2014 to 4.76 showing a 0.78 decrease for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Bisbee has a secondary tax rate in place. Palominas School District property owners will be experiencing an increase, from a rate of 5.27 to 6.81, a difference of 1.54.
“Sierra Vista School District is independent of the county school superintendent’s office and sends its tax rate directly to the county board of supervisors,” said Denise Evans, Tombstone Unified School District business manager. “Sierra Vista also had a slight tax increase this year, but it’s difficult to compare school districts that are independent of the county schools superintendent with districts that are not. Sierra Vista district went through a big increase a few years ago,” she added.
Concerns regarding Tombstone district’s tax rate for 2014-2015 started in May, 2014 when the district’s business office was presented with a projected primary property tax rate of 8.8 for the 2015 fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2014. A series of events created the unexpected increase, including a line of credit the district owed the county treasurer but did not know the money was owed. The line of credit was not recorded on a county form by the district office, nor was that mistake picked up by the county school superintendent’s office when it certified Tombstone district’s cash balance.
The missed line of credit gave the appearance of cash on hand for the Tombstone district that did not exist. Compounding the problem even further, the district’s tax rate was lowered from 3.7 to 3.1 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year by the county, representing an erroneous adjustment that was based on the line of credit issue. The series of mistakes created a debt that continued to escalate, with the district ultimately owing the county an estimated $1.8 million.
At the request of District Superintendent Karl Uterhardt and approved by county supervisors, the debt repayment will be spread over two years, thereby lowering the tax rate in 2014-2015, making it more affordable for taxpayers. Without the negotiation, the rate would have been close to the initial 8.8 rate.
Along with the Tombstone district, other Cochise County school districts, including Willcox and Douglas, experienced similar mistakes with the line of credit calculations and will be paying those debts back over two years, as well.
“What some taxpayers don’t understand is that even though they’re experiencing a property tax increase, the school district’s budget remains the same,” Evans said. “While we’re paying that money back to the county, we’re working with the same budget that we had in 2013-2014.”
Many districts in the county are going through tax rate increases, but it does not mean budget limits have also increased, Evans said. “What it does mean, however, is that taxpayers are shouldering more of a tax burden for our schools, while the state is paying less.”
Si usted desea alguna información en Español o la traducción de alguna de nuestras formas, favor de comunicarse al Centro de Inscripciones al teléfono (520) 224-2446 o puede visitarnos en el 1132 en la Calle 12, Douglas, AZ 85607. Gracias
Taxpayers within Douglas Unified School District
RE: 2014-2015 Tax Rates
In the 2013-14 fiscal year, our tax rates dropped due to a calculation driven by forms developed at the state level and required to be used by statute. This drop in the tax rate left DUSD and other school districts in Cochise County in a position where we have to make up for the lost revenue that took place as a result of the prior three year drop in property taxes.
When informed of this discrepancy, several of the school districts in Cochise County worked closely with the County Supervisors, the County Treasurer, the County Schools Superintendent, and the County Attorney to minimize the impact of making up this revenue. We have worked to make up this difference over a two year period versus a one year period, thus lessening the impact of a property tax increase in a single year.
Property tax payers will see an increase in property tax over the next two years simply to cover the decrease they saw last year. This means property tax payers will pay the same sum they would have paid over a three year period, but not as evenly as we would like to have seen it.
Over time, the Arizona State Legislature has slowly transferred the burden of paying for public schools to local tax payers and this is evidence of such tactics. The main cause of this sequence of events begins with the State Legislature shifting payments to schools into the fiscal year following the year in which expenses were incurred instead of meeting their obligations during the same fiscal year as had been practiced for decades. For DUSD this means that $4.2 million that should have been paid by June 30, was not paid until July 7th.
While we have been given a difficult situation to manage, we do want taxpayers to know many parties worked very hard to even out our tax rates and to prevent an increase that would drastically exceed last year’s rate.
The Annual Financial Report (AFR) is a report of expenditures made and revenues received for the School Year beginning July 1st and ending June 30th of the following year. The report is put together by our Business Department and approved by the Governing Board. You are welcome to view the 2013-2014 AFR on the Arizona Department of Education Web Site's School Finance page.
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