Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Buying tower to cut into tax revenue

The county is expected to buy the 22-story Bank of America Plaza, 33 N. Stone Ave., for $24 million.

The county is expected to buy the 22-story Bank of America Plaza, 33 N. Stone Ave., for $24 million.

Pima County would lose about $90,000 in property taxes next year after purchasing the 22-story Bank of America Plaza on North Stone Avenue, Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the purchase of the downtown office building today for $24 million. Adult Probation and Pre-Trial Services is among the county tenants moving into the tower.

The county is buying the tower at 33 N. Stone Ave. from Colton Co. of Irvine, Calif., which has owned Tucson’s second-tallest building since December 2001.

The county expects to collect $443,000 in property taxes on the tower this year.

The county would lose property tax revenue by occupying about 20 percent of the building now leased to private tenants, Huckelberry said. State law exempts governments from taxes on property used for government services.

Government property leased to private companies is subject to property taxes, said county Assessor Bill Staples, whose office would determine how much of the building would be taxed.

The county would fill the tower within 10 years, and lose all property tax revenue from the building, Huckelberry said. About half of the revenue goes to Tucson Unified School District, a quarter to the county, and the rest to the city and other entities.

The county would still come out ahead, in part because of savings from owning instead of renting downtown office space, Huckelberry said.

Supervisor Ray Carroll agreed, although he said the county needs to find less-expensive office space outside downtown for “nonessential bureaucracy.”

“I’ve always been a proponent of the county buying over renting downtown,” he said. “The county has too many leases.”

The county would spur more new property tax revenue by locating in the tower than it would lose by displacing private tenants, Huckelberry said. That’s because lawyers and other businesses would want to locate near the new county building, he said.

Donovan Durband, executive director of the Tucson Downtown Alliance, hopes the county purchase will lead to more downtown development. But he wonders about having so much downtown real estate occupied by government offices.

“There’s a little trepidation about that, given that they already have the Legal Services building,” Durband said, referring to the county high-rise office building across the street from the Bank of America.

Citizen Staff Writer Teya Vitu contributed to this article.

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