Explanation for mystery education tax item emerges ... sort of

By Linda Bentley | October 14, 2009

CCUSD – Sonoran News has gone to a great deal of effort attempting to obtain an explanation for the property tax line item “EXEMPT EQ TAX CAVECREEK” that appears under the education section on property tax bills in the Cave Creek Unified School District.

The tax isn’t new, but stood out this year because it increased by 88 percent.

What we’ve learned since last week is that this tax actually appears on property tax bills in six school districts: Cave Creek, Arlington, Saddle Mountain, Riverside, Fountain Hills and Gila Bend, within Maricopa County.

The way this tax has been explained is, in basic layman’s terms, if a district that is not eligible to receive equalization funding has a tax rate lower than 50 percent of the qualifying tax rates for equalization tax, those property owners are further penalized with an additional tax that goes into the general fund and for which the taxed district receives no benefit.

In other words, because CCUSD has such a low tax rate due to having some of the most inflated valuations in the state, property owners are charged, in essence, an additional luxury tax because the assessor's office inflated their valuations.

We’re still waiting for additional elucidation, but, without getting into lengthy details about the statutory formulas, that seems to be it in a nutshell.