When a committee of state legislators and local residents held a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss redrawing the line between Santa Cruz into Cochise counties, several attendees talked about a common source of frustration: property taxes.
Complaints about rising taxes are one of several issues raised by a group of local residents, led by David Green and the Sonoita/Elgin Community Group, who are calling on Cochise County to annex land in Eastern Santa Cruz.
“We’ve been battling the property tax problem for about three years,” said Matt Parrilli, a Sonoita-Elgin-area resident and member of the committee.
But after comparing 2019 tax rates, the NI found that property owners in Sonoita-Elgin would likely have paid more if the area were a part of Cochise County.
In Santa Cruz County, the combined tax rate rate that the county levied on all residents in 2019, regardless of location, came to $5.8191 per $100 of assessed value. In Cochise, that figure was $6.0877.
For a homeowner who lives in their house, taxable “assessed value” is equal to 10 percent of the property’s valuation.
That means the owner of a home in the Sonoita-Elgin area assessed at $200,000 would have been taxed $1,163 by Santa Cruz County in 2019. If the area were part of Cochise, county taxes would likely have come to about $1,217.
Those numbers don’t include other taxes levied by school and fire districts, as well as other tax authorities, but school and fire district taxes aren’t determined by county boundaries.
Sonoita-Elgin residents were taxed $4.6271 per $100 of assessed value by the Sonoita Elementary School District in 2019, on top of $2.6950 for the Patagonia Union High School District and $2.7250 for the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District.
For a $200,000 home, those three taxes would have totaled $2,009 in 2019.
Green, the leader of the Sonoita/Elgin community group, has also asserted that properties in Sonoita-Elgin are valued unfairly highly.
Cochise County Assessor Philip Leiendecker said there was no reason to think that property valuations would change if the county line were shifted.
Properties in different areas can have different valuations due to the value of their neighborhoods, but the system that’s used to make valuations is the same across all Arizona counties.
At the Oct. 29 meeting, lifetime local resident Glenn Wolfgang, who opposes moving Sonoita-Elgin into Cochise County, said that he had compared tax rates in the two counties in about two hours of online research.
“We’re starting out, if we move to Cochise County, with a greater (tax rate),” he said.
It’s not clear when any proposed county-line shift would be implemented or how local taxes might change in the meantime, but Leiendecker had the same message for Sonoita-Elgin residents.
“They have to be careful, they might get what they ask for and it may be worse than what they’ve got,” he cautioned.
But, at Tuesday’s meeting, some speakers sounded more concerned about the returns they were receiving on their county taxes than the rate they paid.
“We just feel like perhaps our taxes aren’t coming back to us in benefits as much as they are over there,” said Sonoita-Elgin resident Sandra Ruppel, “and there’s a feeling like we can’t break through and get representation in our county.”
Gary Cooper, a 71-year-old resident who wants Cochise County to annex the area, said he “would gladly pay $200 if we could get some roads… I’m willing to pay a little bit more if that’s what it takes to get some services, for the golden years that I’m living here.”