Your Property Taxes are Going Up, Scottsdale. Is It Justified?

Uhh ohh Scottsdale homeowners…your taxes are about to go up. And it’s not just because your home values have risen quite a bit in value either.

Indeed, your property tax rate will rise as a result of a 4-3 vote in city council, with Betty Janik against joining Barry Graham and Kathy Littlefield in forming what seems to be an unusual opposition bloc. In addition to that, your water rates will be going upl. The latter is more understandable and politically acceptable given the drought cycle and concerns about water security, but one does need to wonder if a rate increase is necessary, given that collections were almost certain to rise due to higher home prices.

If we are to look objectively and honestly, we must all acknowledge that in order to maintain the same degree and quality of services, the city must raise more revenue. When looking at the national average, the most used metric for consumer inflation implies a nearly 18% rise in prices compared to this month in 2020. Gas is more expensive, employees need higher incomes, and nearly all input costs are higher.

Have property tax collections kept up? Considering that appraisal prices via the County Assessor lag actual inflation, it would be hard to see how they would keep up properly. However, one could also see how the city would be a bit more flush with cash a year or two later. So perhaps this is more of a short-term response to a short-term concern.

Should residents have faith in the city’s needs to properly use that money? It is notable that this comes in the wake of developments related to Bond 2019, the referendum for public use projects that the voters approved that year. Progress has been relatively disastrous, as mistakes were made in allocation and use and inflation made all of those estimates irrelevant.

Of course, the argument could be made that perhaps the biggest issue that hurt Bond 2019 (inflation) is currently an issue with all city finances, but the management issues with implementation of Bond 2019 should also give all citizens pause when it comes to supporting revenue above-and-beyond what is currently needed.

Ultimately, save the Bond 2019 implementation challenges, the city has garnered enough good will to trust the use of its tax revenue, but patience may be running relatively thin. If property tax appraisals do in fact lag and the city finds itself flush with cash in a year or two, we hope they remember this hike and reverse it instead of simply finding reasons to spend money.