This year, holders of agricultural property in Izard County, as well as everywhere in Arkansas, will see an increase of their property taxes by an average of about ten percent. Since property values have declined significantly since the last re-assessment, one might wonder what is going on. Well, spending by the State of Arkansas and local county governments is expected to increase dramatically. Therefore, in order to obtain the needed revenue without raising tax rates, the Arkansas Assessment Coordination Department (AACD), a non-elected bureaucracy in Little Rock, has taken the appropriate action on valuations to raise your taxes.
This Department, based on statutory authority in A.C.A. 25-28-103, 26-24-102 and 26-24-107, "...has the full power and authority in the administration of the property tax laws of this state to exercise general and complete supervision and control over: (1) The valuation, assessment and equalization of all property in the State of Arkansas except that remaining under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission; (2) The several county assessors, county boards of review and equalization, and other officers charged with assessment or equalization of property throughout the state, to the end that all assessments of property in this state shall be made in relative proportion to the just and true value thereof, in substantial compliance with the law."
You may have thought that our local officials set assessments. Well, think again. The county assessor has some discretion in such things as granting developer discounts (25% in Izard, 65% in Independence -- another bad sign for Izard), but otherwise the 500 pound gorilla in the room is the state with its bloated bureaucracy.
Some counties have attempted to hold the line on Market Values and stave off increased taxes, but Izard made no such effort. We need to encourage our local officials to fight for our interests against Little Rock and replace those officials if they refuse to do so. There is no benefit in rolling over and playing dead, even if actions by local officials do not immediately bear fruit. A neighboring county's assessor attempted to hold the line, forcing the AACD to overrule her and impose their tyranny of tax increases over her protests. But at least she tried to protect her constituents and clearly identified Little Rock as the source of our economic distress. Our elected officials should be doing the same.
And why do re-assessments cost so much when the AACD determines Market Values in the final analysis? And where is the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC), self-described as the "official" voice of Arkansas county governments, on this issue? Oh, I forgot -- county dues are a percentage of the turn-back from the state so it is in their interest that property taxes be as high as possible. It's nice to see such conflicts of interest so clearly out in the open. Of course, we already knew the AAC doesn't work for us. It supported giving county elected officials double credit for pensions for up to ten years at the expense of taxpayers who have no pensions.
In summary, the situation is simple: actual land values are declining while taxable valuations are increasing. In the midst of economic hard times, our taxes are increasing. This is insanity. These tax increases apparently originated in the governor's office, and it is to him, through our representatives, we must make our displeasure known. The current governor is term limited, but we must ensure that the next governor does not continue the current one's ruinous and stupid policies. We should be encouraging people, industry and jobs to move into Arkansas by lowering taxes, not increasing them.
Calico Rock, Ark.