Saturday, February 26, 2011

Maricopa County home valuations fall 11%

Few Maricopa County homeowners will be surprised when they open their latest property valuations to learn that their homes are officially worth less than last year.

The county tax valuations that begin arriving in the mail today will show the fourth consecutive annual drop in home values for Valley property owners.

Residential-property values fell an average of 11 percent in 2010, according to the latest report from the Maricopa County Assessor's Office. But it also shows that the rate of annual decline in values is slowing.

In 2009, metro Phoenix residential property values fell 15 percent. In 2008, they plummeted 23 percent, the biggest drop of the prolonged retreat in home prices. In 2007, values declined 13 percent.

County Assessor Keith Russell said the valuations most homeowners receive in the mail in the next week will reflect the continued decline in property values.

The property-valuation assessments going out now will be reflected in 2012 tax bills.

Last year, the overall median value of homes in the county fell to $117,700 from $132,200 in 2009.

Some Valley cities fared better than others. Home values declined only 1.8 percent in Litchfield Park but plummeted 45.3 percent in Tolleson.

County homeowners have yet to see declines in their property taxes similar to the size of drops in property valuations, and they likely won't again this year.

Many Valley municipalities and school districts are still facing budget gaps and will likely have to raise property-tax rates this fall, effectively wiping out any tax reduction that the lower valuations would suggest.

Property-tax bills, which lag valuations by 18 months in Arizona, are based on a complex formula that includes funding for municipalities and school districts. Most property-tax money is spent on education.

The annual tax bill that homeowners will receive this September will be based on 2009's valuation, not on the new figures released today. The lag is built into Arizona's property-tax process so homeowners can appeal their valuations if they believe the initial appraisal is too high or low.

Property owners can appeal their valuations with the Assessor's Office until April 26.

About 1.5 million properties were valued by the Maricopa County assessor during 2009.


Understanding property taxes

Property-tax calculations and the terms used to discuss them can be confusing. Here are some basics:

- Full-cash value (FCV) is the figure that reflects a property's current market value. This number is used to calculate secondary taxes such as bonds, budget overrides and special districts such as fire and flood control.

- Limited property value (LPV) is used to assess taxes for school districts, cities, community colleges and the county. It's calculated using a complex formula set by the state Legislature and can't be higher than a property's FCV. The FCV and various LPVs from your assessment determine your share of taxes.

- Property taxes are determined through a formula based primarily on property valuations set by the county assessor and tax rates set by municipalities and school districts. Formulas vary from city to city. But here is an average breakdown of how much different kinds of taxing districts factor into property taxes: special districts, 7 percent; community college, 10 percent; county, 11 percent; cities, 11 percent; and schools, 61 percent. Financial decisions those groups make this summer will determine what property-tax bills look like this fall.

- The 18-month lag between property valuations and tax bills is built into the system so homeowners can appeal the values.

- The deadline to appeal a Maricopa County property valuation is April 26.

- For more information, go to

by Catherine Reagor The Arizona Republic Feb. 25, 2011 12:00 AM

Maricopa County home valuations fall 11%

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