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home : opinions : commentary June 28, 2016

1/3/2012 1:11:00 PM
My Turn: Ranchers’ lawsuit boils down to 27 cents per acre increase in property taxes phased in over seven years
Pamela Pearsall
Yavapai County Assessor

I am running the Assessor’s Office on the principle of treating all taxpayers fairly and equitably. This requires not giving favors to special interest groups or to any member of said group.  

When the assessor gives a group or someone in that group a “special favor,” the assessor has actually shifted a portion of the property taxes that this special group should be paying onto the backs of the remaining taxpayers. This is morally wrong and not keeping in line with my fiduciary responsibility as county assessor.

 It is not only fair but is a legal requirement (per Arizona Revised Statutes 42- 13051 (B) (2)) to update property values annually.

This includes all property types, including those properties falling under various agricultural classifications. Since my tenure as assessor began in January 2009, I have endeavored to equitably and fairly assess all property types in Yavapai County. This has included revisiting a number of properties that were granted “special” favors or that were “overlooked” under past administrations.  

One area that has not been updated for several decades involves properties falling under agricultural classification. Pursuant to requirement by the Arizona Department of Revenue, a county wide (as well as state wide) examination of agricultural property leases was recently undertaken, resulting in an increase in assessed value for grazing lands as well as other categories of agricultural use lands in Yavapai County.  

Apparently an increase in assessed full cash property values in Yavapai County, after 20-plus years of no change, was deemed unfair by a select group of property owners, even though rather significant changes have occurred in every other category of property types.

This illustrates general increases for all property types (except agricultural lands) between 1992 and 2007 with most categories increasing between 78.25 percent and 162.37 percent during this 15-year time span, while agricultural values remained unchanged.

Some decline occurred after 2007 due to deteriorating market conditions with decreases between 2.89 percent and 14.13 percent indicated for the non-agricultural properties.  The noted increase for agricultural properties of 227.27 percent reflects the fact that these values were not addressed during the interim time and also reflect the difference in valuation methodology utilized in calculating agricultural land values per ARS statute, compared with other property types.

Properties that had been classified as agricultural grazing land did not have their values updated for several decades in Yavapai County, resulting in valuations of $7.56 per acre being utilized for property tax purposes year after year since before 1987. This caused a disproportionate property tax shift to occur each year on the remaining property owners as other properties increased in value while agricultural property values remained stable.  

I updated Agricultural Grazing Land values for the 2012 tax year from $7.56 to $25 per acre based on agricultural lease rate information provided by the Arizona Department of Revenue and effective as of the date this value was established. Actual property taxes will be calculated based on the in Limited Property Value, which is phased in over a seven-year period of time beginning in 2012.

Overall this means an increase of about 27-cents per acre in property taxes with this increase being incrementally phased in over several years rather than occurring in just one tax year.

It may seem that the updated $25 per acre value for grazing land is rather low, compared with per acre values for non-agricultural tracts.  Agricultural properties are not valued at “market value,” but, rather, are valued utilizing a “current use” value basis per specific requirements prescribed in statute.  I specifically followed these requirements when recently updating these values.  

However, there is a disagreement between the Cattleman’s Association and the Assessors Office on what the “current use” value should be. Based on the Department of Revenue Lease Study provided specifically for this purpose, I have determined the appropriate “current use” value should be increased from $7.56 to $25 per acre.  

The Cattleman’s Association, based on a study that they procured, actually believe that the agricultural classified property value has declined from $7.56 to $3.54 per acre. While common sense would dictate that prices have generally increased from the late 1980s through the present (in spite of the recent market downturn), at the end of the day it appears as if the court may have to render a final decision as to the “accurate” value for agricultural property in Yavapai County.    

In conclusion, while paying property taxes is far from being our favorite activity, it is one of the burdens we bear for the right to own and utilize property including receiving certain services such as police/fire protection, schools, etc.  As your county assessor, I feel that the burden of property taxes should be as fair and equitable as possible for all property owners and should be based on the correct application of State of Arizona statutes provided to ensure this fairness and equity when estimating the full cash value for all property types.

For decades, many property owners have paid an increasingly disproportionate share of the overall tax burden due to increases in their property values while agricultural property owners have benefited from not having periodic reassessment of their property values, resulting in having to pay less than a proportionate share of the property tax burden.  

At this time I am endeavoring only to be fair, under the law, by bringing agricultural land values to a realistic level, based on statutory requirements.  

Pamela Pearsall is the Yavapai County Assessor.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2012
Article comment by: Jeff Wyantt

Great job, keep following the law no matter how small-minded Chip Davis is. Hopefully he'll shame hinsef into doing the professional thing and send you to dc. A place of people with ideas beyond his understanding that intimidate him, so you arenot allowed to work due his fears. Sad

Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012
Article comment by: Bar Eighty Ranch & Cattle

I wonder if all these postings are coming from Yavapai County property in the Assessor's office during work hours? Sounds like one or two of the same people posting over and over to me.

We'll just have to see what the judge will say to these criminal acts from the Assessor's office.

Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012
Article comment by: To Maggie Holt

They do have a kinda ranch district... Its called the Cattlemans Association... and The lobbiest Aha Bass, several members like Steve Pierce,our own State rep. Who is a rancher/developer, and Barry Denton who also is a rancher and president of the republican mens forum.. Steve Pierce did create a new law that gives now allows all horse businesses to also get the cushy ag exemption, Steve made this all happen before he even looked at the fiesability study, showing a huge tax shift over to everone else, so many more people will be entitled to jump on board. Thanks Steve.. Think 98% and 2 %... Just sayin...

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: could it be

that this area ranchers really didnt get educated? Seems some basic logic is missing. 27 cents per acre over the coarse of 7 years and they lawyer up? (willing to pay 1000's of dollars over less than a penny a day of tax) something so weird and dark! Heck lets all take jars and cans and put them through out the county to raise money to help them pay the tiny difference in land tax. Give me a break!

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: Really ????

Do the Ranhcers really think they are going to get the majority to have and feel pitty for this situation? Good blog 98% taxpayer!

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: RE:Regular Tax Payor.

Two thumbs up! Lol! Cant believe the arrogance! On to court! Cattlemens association dont have a chance... Who ever started this lawsuit musta been smokin hay!

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: Wondering Mind

Wow 98% and 2%...... Hummm wonder how the judge will rule??

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: Maggie Holt

Well, gee, Ranchers, why don't you just ask to form a Ranch District? You know, like a Fire District, Library District, School District? Then you could actually RECEIVE money from the rest of us. I mean, why not? You've been basically receiving from us since--uh, is that 1986 that some are saying?

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: Regular Property Tax Payor.

I am a home owner. I am of the 98% protesting group. I am of the 98% of the population that pays for land taxes. It is a given fact through public documents that Pam has in fact followed the law to the T. With this increase in AG grazing rants, She finally righted a wrong from a long time ago. But she is getting resistance from a select few Ē2%Ē, All other naysayerís in these comments get and understand the facts, and am tired of giving free hand outs to special interest groups. Last I heard every one is entitled to a free education and protection from law enforcement. Us home owner folk want every one to carry their fair share. Our taxes are based on everyoneís use. Some might have been here prior to Pam simply because of age. Pamís anchors are deep in this areas soil, for her grandfather was born here when Arizona was still a territory. You can mark my word PAM AND ALLTHE HOMEOWNERS WILL BE HERE AS LONG AS THEY WANT. In the meantime, do not try and pillage us and lay blame on us for not wanting to carry your share. This is completely unacceptable and a plain blatant mis use of the 98%.

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: Is this for real?

Thank You Pam Pearsall for clarifying this issue. Finally someone with an IQ! After reading this article I like how professional and fair you are with our ranchers, to bad they havenít extended the same courtesy. As a resident of Arizona, Yavapai county, Its refreshing to see a politician that cowers to no one and does what is right for every one, including the ranchers. Most importantly you treat every one with respect! Its sad to think common sense has left the cattle growers association. But now they opened the barn door, Frankly I donít see the Ranchers winning! All budgets, ie schools, Fire districts, police departments, sheriffsí office, detention centers, jails, gas, roads ,the list goes on and on have all increased. Yet the land value of ag hasnít increased not one cent. And the Cattle Growers association has the nerve to complain? Give me a break! I would bet that they are not charging us the same amount as they did back in 1986. I think I would like to take my chances having the ranches pay a way more than fair amount then every one else will get a break! The tax will not be the burden of the poorest amongst us. Cowboy up!

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: bob grant

Equalize the special interest take away the Church exemptions: If they want control of so much in our communities let them Pay too.If hurting the ranchers causes open land to be grabbed by realtors and developers thats not right either .

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: is this for real??

What am I missing? As I drive around and see all the beautiful ranches, with big beautiful homes, even air strips and airplane hangers. Seems some of the most wealthy amongst us are the Ranchers. And it seems they are going after there own. It doesnít add up. The price of every thing has increased since 1986, except ranches? Now they threaten that meat will double cause they are getting a tiny increase over the coarse of several years? I am curious, How much of the home grown Yavapai county beef gets onto the tables of Yavapai county residences? I called some of our grocery stores, and restaurants, seems they donít get local meat. So Bar Eighty who buys your product? How does it save us money or benefit us? It would seem we are all subsidizing your life style that you chose, and not getting anything in return. I looked at the ranches that are for sale, all of them way over a million dollars. Look for your selves. Maybe all the home owners/tax payers should make an association, like the cattlemenís and get lobbyist to create subsidies for us.

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: Really? Bar Eighty

I believe that the Assessor has to abide by laws and statutes, and does not and can not do as she pleases, if that were the case and she had the power, then why would she go after the cowboy mafia knowing they will not tolerate changes fair or not. None of us like having to spend our hard earned money for more government waste, like the nice roads to no where we see popping up all over (thanks BOS) Our Ranchers want people they can control, and get the special treatment they have always gotten. As mentioned so many times, Why did Steve Pierce have a new law passed making more gray areas and allowing all horse breeders, boarder, hoarders to get ag on there horse business, Some have commercial land on hwy 89 (horse stables). So lets give Steve even more power to put our assessor in place. She will learn to never cross the ranchers or horse people. I think this is wag the tail. Get everyone off the misuse of ag and the demise of the Yavapai fair grounds that is now under investigation for wrong dealings and so many people with political clout will be exposed. So lets get every one to shift over to a lame law suit. Maybe not so lame. The courts can once and for all clean all the gray areas, What if the courts find that the assessor is correct, and the ranchers are not. Then appeal after appeal. No one wins! But the cowboy mafia has the clout to go all in. We voted someone in to do her job for every one, not special interest groups with special agendas that can hurt a single mother or a low income widow on a fixed income. Pam Pearsall does not make the law, she only abides by them. Thatís what she was sworn in to do. I am assuming she didnít know how powerful and self serving other elected officials are, and donít cross them, they have the means to put you in place and slap you hard. Not that it would matter, for she will do what she feels is right, for everyone because all the people are her employer. I also got on the website, People keep bringing up 16% of 25.00... Does it not go like this.... $25.00 x's 16% gets you the assessed value then you times that amount to the tax rate. Could be around 1% gosh that will really put a dent in the pockets of our Ranches and Horse people. But heck its cowboy mafia war, take any means available to win, weather its right or wrong. Its about trying to make the people who do the correct thing buckle down and obey. Keep your head up Pam! Also got a weird letter from the HOA at viewpoint, mentioning the assessor in a less than positive way?? So shows that the Fains are still in control somehow of that subdivision. Should get real interesting. As will the names that will come out in the fair scandals... And I will also do some research on the View point, find out how the Fains are still involved, see if several of the vacant lots for sale are getting ag. These bad apples didnt get rich alone by being ranchers. Its the strategic way they positioned them selves in development and politics. If I were a true rancher, I would be livid at the mis -use of the ag.

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: Simply Put

Re Bar Eighty.

The true Rancher should be out raged that the city slickers move here and get to join in on the ag status because Steve Pierce Created a law giving horse breeders, stables, race horses, ,miniature horses, every horse business the same exemption as the true Arizonan rancher. This will indeed cause a shift over to every one else. The cost of every thing has gone up since 1986. I believe that this law suit is only going to clarify and make fair what should be paid. I donít think it will go as you all are hoping. But will bring so much attention to the ride you have had on the backs of every one else, that the majority will become educated and demand fairness. I attended a meeting where Pam Pearsall spoke, and explained it, gave web sites, The ag law (prior to Steve PierceĎs new law) Stated plain and simply that the land use had to be for things eatable. We donít eat horses here, so your own rep. caused a fire. Pam said she is a third generation Arizonan, Her family has been here for over 130 years, So she isnít going no where. I believe you are a fair person that feels passionate about the cause, But suing the State wasnít the answer, and the outcome will not be the solution you want.. Come on ,really? you think your land should go from 7 something down 50% to just over 3 dollars an acre? From what Iíve seen and heard Pam abides by the laws as they are written, She has integrity, She works fairly for every one, And that angers some who like the old way things were done.. whereís the integrity in that? Over 20 years yaíall havenít had an increase of as much as one cent? And would like to dole out mega bucks to Lawyers, way more than this tiny tax increase, There is a hidden agenda. Its hard to fathom that real ranchers support city slicker wanna-beeís, and want them to get the same treatment and discounts at all cost. And please clarify thisÖ You have not made any more profit since 1986? Your profit is exactly the same, and you should never ever have an increase in your ranch land, forever? Donít sound like the cowboys I knew. Sounds like them cowboys from tombstone in the Wyatt Earp days. Come on be reasonable, or at least educated on your own cause.

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012
Article comment by: Clayton Prescott

If any of these "working" ranchers find their tax burden to be too excessive, they can give their massive acreage to me. I will pay the new tax bill with no complaints or lawsuits. It is time that these "generational" fat cats pay a FAIR tax on their property (real estate holdings) like the rest of us. (Only differences are ... I need to actually LIVE on my property ... not sell a part of it off for a new subdivision). Arizona "ranchers" (real estate barons) have lived in a free ride fantasy land for too long. What the rest of us have, we WORKED for ... it wasn't handed to us. The taxpayers of Yavapai County have subsidized "ranchers" for too long. It is time for the Yavapai County "ranchers"(real estate barons) to start paying their own way ... but that is a concept they don't understand.

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