Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross has received an estimated 15 percent annual property tax break on one of her homes by not correcting the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office, which has listed her living in two homes since 1998.
Manross and her husband, Larry, own three properties in Scottsdale. When they signed a 1997 building permit for their home at 7362 E. Gallego Lane in Grayhawk, they listed it as a rental. The county mistakenly classified it as "owner-occupied," giving the couple a homeowners rebate of more than $1,000 over five years.
County officials caught the error, which they said is common, in an annual January audit, said Assessor Kevin Ross. Manross’s Gallego Lane home will be reclassified and her bill will increase Oct. 1.
"What you’re really dealing with here is whether or not she knew and whether or not she was saying, ‘Why should we say anything?’ which is common,’’ Ross said.
Manross said she never saw the property tax bills because they are forwarded to her mortgage company.
"I never saw the county made a mistake,’’ Manross said.
Jim Muelemans, deputy county assessor, said his office sends homeowners "notices of value’’ 18 to 20 months before tax bills are mailed. The notice states: "If this property is classified as owneroccupied, residential . . . and is being used as a rental unit, the owner must notify the county assessor.’’
Muelemans said he would presume the Manrosses have received the forms.
"We have a statement pretty bold that says this is not a tax bill. I don’t know if people stop reading at the point,’’ Muelemans said. "Unfortunately for some people . . . they maybe don’t look at it as closely as they should.’’
The Manrosses live at 10415 N. 81st St., just south of Shea Boulevard. In addition to their Gallego Lane rental, they also own a home at 10303 E. Saltillo Drive in McDowell Mountain Ranch.
The mayor, who will vie against City Councilman David Ortega in Tuesday’s runoff, asked the Tribune not to write a story because she said it would damage her integrity.
"I’ve never lied in my life, damn it,’’ Manross said.
"I hate to see elected officials put themselves in situations where they blame the system,’’ Ross said. "They should be above the fray.’’
Manross also alleged south Scottsdale activist George Knowlton, who discovered her tax bill inaccuracy, has a vendetta against her.
Knowlton said his intent is to keep civil servants honest and ethical.
"I’m a simple citizen living in the city, that’s it,’’ Knowlton said. "They can’t hurt me.’’
The mayor, a Democrat, provided the Tribune with a copy of a March 10 e-mail Knowlton wrote. Larry Manross obtained a copy. In it, he called her "wishy-washy Mary’’ and said "a bunch of us have kept excellent notes and evidence and are going to nail her tail to the wall."
"You’re dealing with an elected official who should know better," Ross, a Republican said. "Protect your butt on this stuff. There’s no question about it.
"Being that she is responsible for setting tax rates for properties of all types in Scottsdale then she knows the difference between rental and owner-occupied . . . that’s kind of part of her responsibility as an official.’’