Having access to information and acting on that information are as different as night and day.
We applaud legislation introduced by Arizona House Representatives — including by our own Becky Nutt — that increases the transparency of tax information. The series of bills received bipartisan support from the entire Legislature and have subsequently been signed into law by Gov. Ducey.
Now it’s up to taxpayers to utilize that information in making decisions about our elected officials.
Nutt’s bill, HB2442, requires the county treasurer to post all annual and monthly reports of collection, custody and disbursement of public revenue on the treasurer’s website within five days of submitting the report to the board of supervisors. The new law will give taxpayers a detailed look at how and where money is being spent by their county, along with the source of the money received.
In Cochise County, Treasurer Kathy Traywick is ahead of the transparency game. Her office already offers a detailed “parcel inquiry” website which provides taxpayers a convenient site to download their property tax bill, and that of their neighbors’ for comparison purposes. The Treasurer’s website also provides tax charts and information on excise taxes.
It’s available at cochise.az.gov/treasurer/home.
HB2112 requires governing boards to publish two notices in a “generally-circulated newspaper” whenever a proposed property tax levy is higher than the previous year.
This change will result in Cochise College publishing two notices of increases to its property tax, rather than just one, which is the current requirement. The college has consistently increased its tax collection by the maximum allowed by state law for the past several years. The law will also require publishing a press release on the website of the county, city or town that announces the name of the newspaper where the truth in taxation notice will be published.
A third measure will require county School Superintendent Jacqui Clay to publish audit results for public and charter schools. An audit is a detailed look at not only the finances of the district, but other information like enrollment. Cochise County has more than 20 school districts and this information will be useful for constituents who pay close attention to the factors that directly impact how much money is available for everything from maintenance to curriculum. Ducey signed the law Feb. 12, which immediately went into effect.
For those who can utilize a spreadsheet for data analysis, our state government has now formalized a practice that has previously been compiled by the Arizona Tax Research Foundation (arizonatax.org). For years, the ATRF has put together a manual that provides complete information on every taxing district within a county. This single resource has been a convenient collection of how much property tax revenue, bed tax and other money is received by the local taxing district.
Now it will be available as a Google or Excel spreadsheet for constituents, allowing people to get a good insight on where the money is coming from, and how it’s being spent by local tax districts.
All of these bills will provide taxpayers with more insight on how governing boards operate and the decisions that our locally-elected officials make.
We celebrate the transparency.