Council to decrease property tax rate

Councilman Jose Grijalva (center) recognized the Utilities Department, Verizon and Five Star Cleaners at the March 11 city council meeting.

After Douglas saw a primary property tax valuation increase of nearly $900,000, the City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance that will decrease the property tax rate.

The decision was made at the Douglas City Council meeting Wednesday night.

Luis Pedroza, Douglas’ management services director, explained that every fiscal year the City of Douglas is required to adopt its property tax levy rate and submit certification of the levy to the Cochise County Board of Supervisors.

Pedroza noted the primary assessed value for the city this year is $56.32 million, which is up $896,468 or 1.6 percent excluding new construction. New construction added $918,611 to the tax rolls.

The 2020 property tax rate will decrease from 1.1782 to 1.1591 per $100 assessed valuation, that will levy $652,867.

“The levy is an increase from $642,240 to $652,867 for a total increase of $10,627, due to new construction added in the year,” he said.

According to information provided at the meeting the City’s portion of the property tax levy on $100,000 assessed value would be $115.91 per year. On the average home valuation of $70,000 it would be $81.14 per year.

The primary property tax levy is used to pay for the general operations expenses of the city government.

With the sales tax increase in place from FY 20-21 that brings in revenue from visitors and temporary residents equal to more than what Douglas’ permanent residents contribute, according to information provided to council members at the meeting.

“Staff continues to recommend decreasing the levy to keep the property tax on its residents generally at the same level as the prior year,” according to the information.

Ward 3 Councilman Donald Huish wanted the public to understand that back in July and August when the city budget was being passed, property taxes were discussed and what the ceiling would be.

“Now that we have a formal, finalized, assessed valuation from the county, now we have to make it official and lower the property tax for the City of Douglas portion,” he said. “I have no idea what the schools are doing but the city is lowering its assessed evaluation. That can affect the individual property owner in many ways. If their property assessed valuation goes up, they may have to pay a little bit more. I encourage them to check their assessed valuation because more than likely that is the reason behind that.”

In other business, the council agreed to table any action regarding repairs to the Douglas Municipal Airport Runway, which has an estimated price tag of $3.1 million.

The city was recently awarded a $1.8 million dollar grant from ADOT Aeronautics for the first phase of reconstruction of the runway, Pedroza said, of which the city was responsible for 10 percent or $180,000, which would come from matching funds.The second phase was going to cost $1.3 million with another 10 percent coming from city matching funds.

“We were just told recently that we will not get the $1.3 million and that we would only have access to about $500,000,” Pedroza said, adding the city would now need to come up with just over $1 million dollars which it does not have at the moment.

“We’re considering doing a rehabilitation of the runway instead of a reconstruction which entails possible milling, compaction and overlay of the runway,” he said. “We’re proposing that to ADOT to see if that gets approved.”

Pedroza asked the council to table this item until the April meeting so that he could get more information from ADOT on what Douglas’ other options are.

The council also set the monthly sewer fees for the residents living in Bay Acres which is currently undergoing a sewer connection project.

The residential fees, which go into effect in June, will be $32.02 per month for residential and $52.03 per month for commercial, providing they stay under 200,000 gallons per month. Should a business go over, the commercial fees will increase to $95.

The additional fees will reportedly bring approximately $11,207 per month for residential and $156.09 per month for commercial for the sewer fund.

The fees being charged the Bay Acres residents are slightly higher than those currently being paid by Douglas residents. Should Bay Acres become annexed into the City, Pedroza said, their sewer fees will go down to $25 for residential, and $37 for commercial which is what residents and businesses inside the city limits are currently paying.

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