FLORENCE — Although Pinal County has cut its primary property tax rate by six cents, increases in assessed value mean the typical taxpayer will still see a small increase of less than half of 1%, the Board of Supervisors was told Wednesday.

For an individual, this equates to a tax bill of $1.45 more on a home with an assessed value of $100,000, Pinal County Budget Director Angie Woods told the board. Overall, Pinal County will collect additional tax of $397,876, or an increase of 0.39%, according to the county’s “truth in taxation” notice.

The board adopted the county’s new annual budget of $734.5 million Wednesday, plus an annual Pinal County Employee Compensation Plan providing across-the-board 2.5% raises to qualified employees. Effective date of the raise is Sept. 19.

The six-cent cut results in a primary property tax rate of $3.69 per $100 of assessed value. To achieve a “flat levy” with no tax increase, the board would have had to cut the rate almost two cents more to $3.6755.

At the board’s truth in taxation public hearing, Dr. Deborah Banks of Johnson Ranch asked if the tax increase was driven by staff increases and road work. Pinal County Manager Leo Lew replied there are concerns for the potential of inflated prices in the year ahead, plus the “entire needs of the county.”

An Oracle woman commented that people don’t have many amenities in that community, with no lights on the streets and some streets that aren’t even paved. “It would be nice if we could see something out of our tax increase,” she said.

Banks also asked why the public can’t have “a more transparent process” as taxes are raised or lowered. Board Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, replied that Wednesday’s meeting was the third or fourth time the board has discussed tax rates and levies for the new fiscal year, which began July 1. He also noted the board’s meeting agendas are public. Banks replied it could have also been mentioned in the county’s newsletter.

Also Wednesday, the board members met as the Pinal County Flood Control District board and the Pinal County Library District board, and held truth in taxation hearings for those districts. The Desert Vista Sanitary District will levy no tax this year and held no public hearing.

The overall county budget is up more than $164 million, which is primarily due to increases in grant funding, including the American Rescue Plan Act and other grants in support of COVID-19 relief.

Major facilities in the new budget include new buildings for the medical examiner and public defense/public fiduciary; renovations at the county’s Casa Grande complex, Apache Junction complex and county Buildings A and D in Florence; sally port doors at the jail; expansion of the recorder’s office in Coolidge; a public health/emergency management warehouse; and Phase 2 of the Sheriff’s Office shooting range.

In other business Wednesday, the board approved an amendment to a contract between the Sheriff’s Office and Florence Unified School District for an additional school resource officer. FUSD agrees to pay the salary and employee-related expenses for this officer up to $107,031 as long as the position is grant-funded.

“I know it’s been harder and harder to get school resource officers, so any little bit helps,” Supervisor Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, said.

“This is another way that we can increase our law enforcement across the county, in particular in some of the areas where we are shy,” board Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said. He continued that relationships between law enforcement and youths “are so vital, especially in our society today.”

Sheriff Mark Lamb said he originally told FUSD he couldn’t fill all the positions for which the district obtained grants, but has since been able to fill one more. Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, asked if this will take a deputy off the road.

Lamb replied the new position is in addition to current staffing levels, and separate from the new deputies approved in the new budget. When the school district’s grant funding ends, the county will have to decide if it can afford to keep the position, Lamb said.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.