Idaho Dispatch

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Coronavirus and unemployment notwithstanding, Boise plans to increase property taxes

By • June 10, 2020

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean has proposed a “two percent plus growth” property tax increase for Fiscal Year 2021.

Because the city can legally take up to three percent plus growth, McLean is presenting her recommendation as an exercise of fiscal restraint. “Even before this [coronavirus pandemic], there were so many people in our community calling on us to look at how we impact housing affordability, and even more so now,” she told the city council.

Some members of the city council want more, however. Councilman Jimmy Hallyburton suggested taking the full three percent plus growth property tax increase but using the extra one percent for more social programs.

Boise’s property tax revenue will increase substantially this year even without any rate increases due to annexation, new construction, and other growth within the city. The city will already see a revenue increase of $2.9 million just from these sources.

The proposed rate increase will add another $3.2 million (at 2 percent) or $4.8 million (at 3 percent) for a total revenue increase of $6.1 or $7.7 million.

Property tax increases are particularly harmful to those on a fixed income because the increases tend to rise much faster than inflation and related cost-of-living adjustments.

In Ada County, the median property tax bill increased by 79 percent from 2000 to 2018. Prices overall rose 44 percent during this same period.

In cities like Boise, the rate of increase is even greater due to the city’s propensity to raise taxes and rapidly rising property assessments. Becky Boyd, a Boise homeowner profiled by the local media last year, saw her property taxes increase by 119 percent in just one 10-year period. Her $1,747 property tax bill in 2008 had jumped to $3,829 in 2018.

Rising property assessments continue to push up taxes, especially in areas like the Boise Bench, where median assessment values have increased by a combined 32 percent over the last two years.

Compared to other cities in Ada County, Boise has the highest per capita property tax collection by a significant margin, averaging $693. The city of Eagle, meanwhile, despite its reputation as a wealthy community, has a per capita property tax levy of just $132.

The state legislature has the authority to rein in local property tax collection, but despite the introduction during the last session of several bills to reduce property taxes, none of the proposals became law.

The right-of-center Idaho Freedom Foundation called McLean’s proposal “not a tax break” and called on the city “to lower taxes by cutting out non-essential expenses, or at least freezing tax collection to be the same as it was last year.”

A public hearing on the city budget is scheduled for 6:00 PM, July 21 at Boise City Hall.


Tags: Ada County, Boise, property taxes, taxes

3 thoughts on “Coronavirus and unemployment notwithstanding, Boise plans to increase property taxes

  1. The City has stated it will not take any of the allowed 3% budget increase. But if the Council does not pass a Resolution to not “claw-back” any of the foregone amount in future years, the meaning of this action becomes meaningless in the future. We could face a 6% increase in any future year, or the Council could slip in 1% extra over three consecutive years, etc. Send a comment to City Council to vote to not claw it back later, or they will (city website has a link to comment on the budget). Last year, Boise’s neighboring jurisdictions of Ada County, Whitney Fire Protection District, and North Ada County Fire and Rescue all clawed-back foregone budget amounts.

  2. Update on “claw-back” option. House Bill 354 passed this prior legislative session which revises the law to be: Require local taxing districts to pass a resolution in order to reserve foregone balances.

    Glad to know they have to be fully transparent with their intentions now, as the old bill gave the ability to hide the truth and clawback atuomatically unless they voted not to do so. Next year’s session – kill the clawback ability completely so that sound decisions are made based on present fiscal parameters, not money stashed aside under a temporary promise of no increase.

  3. When McLean was running for mayor, I met her briefly and asked her how much our taxes should be raised…

    She explained to me how she believed that they didn’t need to be raised and that we should learn to manage the money we already get from taxes.

    Interesting to know that she did not really mean it.

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