Queen Creek property owners will pay higher tax bills this year based on increased assessed property values despite a declining housing market.
Voters approved the town's first-ever primary property tax of $1.95 per $100 of assessed valuation last year to fund the start-up Queen Creek Fire Department and the town's contract with Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
While that rate won't change, Queen Creek property owners are paying higher taxes based on property values at the start of 2007.
"The tax bill that the town is talking about is the 2008 tax bill - a reflection of market conditions as of January 2007," said Maricopa County Assessor Keith Russell. "It's over a year and a half old."
Russell said people get caught in this lag because of the long, state-mandated time frame all county assessors in Arizona use. The calendar must allow time for appeals and other processes.
Russell said Queen Creek's median single family home value in 2007, for the tax bill collected this year, is $289,500.
Tax bills to be paid in 2009 will reflect slumping home values in 2008 which show a median single family home value in Queen Creek at $252,100.
Assistant town manager Patrick Flynn said for a $100,000 home the primary property tax bill will jump from $195 a year to $227.18 - a 16.5 percent increase.
"People have to remember that the $100,000 home is now worth $114,000," Flynn said. "It's like playing catch up. Next year it's going to go the other way."
Because of increased home values reflected on the tax bills, the town is expected to raise an additional $1.2 million from property taxes. Last year the town collected about $3.8 million from property taxes.
"Tax bills will change, but our rate isn't going to be any different, it's still going to be $1.95," Flynn said.
"This year, with that same rate, we're going to generate just over $5 million because there is a greater tax base."
But Kevin McCarthy with the Arizona Tax Research Association said the town is increasing taxes by allowing the town's total assessed valuation to climb without decreasing the tax rate.
He said Queen Creek taxpayers are facing "a pretty extraordinary increase."
"If they were to avoid the tax increase, the tax rate would be $1.70 (per $100 of assessed valuation)," McCarthy said. "The value of Queen Creek has increased, so if you leave the tax rate the same, the people that were there are seeing a 15 percent increase this year. A 15 percent pop in primary taxes for existing property owners would be one of the higher ones (in the Valley)."
About 13 cents for every dollar in property taxes goes to the town.
The remaining 87 cents goes to Maricopa or Pinal counties, school districts, community colleges and special taxing districts, town officials said.
Queen Creek's property tax revenue, earmarked for public safety, has funded fire stations, firetrucks and other equipment as well as an increase in Maricopa County sheriff's deputies to cover the growing community, Flynn said.