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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2004


Property values in county increase 15 percent

Property tax assessments pinch homeowners’ budgets

Express Staff Writer

Hailey residents Aaron and Salome Taylor are rethinking their decision to purchase a second home as a rental property in Hailey, now that they have received their Blaine County property assessment notice for their primary residence.

"Our property taxes have gone from $800 to $3,400 in 12 years," said Salome Taylor, who works at Price Asher, a home decoration store in Ketchum. "Yes, we have made improvements to our home but the increase is pretty amazing."

Notices were delivered to county homeowners last week.

The Taylors’ estimated tax for 2004 on the notice for their primary residence is $3,400, up from $2,400 in 2003 and their second home has a substantial increase as well.

"Everyone is concerned," Taylor said. "I work in my garden a lot. Neighbors stop by and ask ‘have you seen your (property assessment)?’ "

Property values in Blaine County increased 15 percent from 2003 to 2004, according to the latest assessment by the Blaine County Assessor’s office. The county increase is one of the highest in the state.

The assessed valuation in 2003 for the entire county was $7.8 billion. As of Jan.1, 2004, the county assessment was $8.9 billion, which is about one third of Ada County’s valuation.

Residential property value increases in the Wood River Valley jumped highest in Bellevue at 28 percent from 2003 to 2004. At 24 percent, Hailey is running a close second.

In the northern end of the county, where real estate is most expensive, changes were less dramatic, but property values still showed an increase. Sun Valley is up 14.3 percent and Ketchum had a 9.7 percent increase in the past year. Property values in Carey increased about the same as Ada County at just over 7 percent.

"It makes us second-guess the investment property decision," Taylor said. "Unless people are wealthy enough to keep kicking in for the increase in property taxes, it is difficult. It is a wonderful opportunity if equity keeps going up, but it is a double edged sword. Most people just want a nice home to live in, but most people I know can hardly afford health insurance. When property taxes cost another $200 a month I don’t know what the solution is."

Taylor is concerned that the result will be that the working population in the community and seniors, who are the founders of the community, will be forced out of the area by increasing taxes.

Tax payments for the second half of fiscal year 2003 are due June 20. The first bill for the 2004 tax cycle is due Dec. 20. Annual budget hearings with the County Commission are held in July. Taxes based on assessed property values and budget requirements for government will be set in September.

The county Board of Equalization (BOE) will hear appeals and negotiate any adjustments in values, up or down, until the end of June, when assessed values will be sent to the state for certification. Homeowners can also appeal to the Idaho State Tax Commission for a review if they have disagreements with the county assessment.

Levy rates for Blaine County cities and fire and cemetery districts vary to accommodate different budget requirements. But, all homeowners in the county pay the same amount for county government, school, recreation and ambulance district taxes, although the percentage of each component of the tax bill varies with differences in line items in each jurisdictions, said Blaine County clerk Marsha Reiman.

For example school taxes are the highest portion of homeowners’ tax bill. Although taxpayers in 2003 faced the same levy rate and paid the same amount for schools, the percentage of that item on the total tax bill varies between jurisdictions. The school tax is 47 percent of the property tax bill in Carey and 79 percent of the bill in Smiley Creek, an unincorporated community in the northern part of the county. Carey, the youngest city in the county has the highest city levy in the county, but Smiley Creek does not have a local levy and fire safety until now has been provided by the U.S. Forest Service. Smiley Creek is currently developing a new fire district, however.

As taxes go up in Blaine County the pinch is felt most by those on fixed incomes, especially elderly people who do not yet qualify for the county’s "circuit breaker" program, said Blaine County Assessor Valdi Pace. "We had 18 new (candidates) for the circuit breaker program this year. We have about 102 (participants)."

Under the program homeowners can have up to $1,200 of their tax bill subsidized.

Taxpayers may find some relief from a BOE review if they believe their property assessment is too high, Pace said.

"If we’re in the wrong we want it fixed right away," Pace said. "Call us up and talk about it."

Pace said if homeowners are looking at their property and thinking that the county assessment isn’t what it should be, it is the property owner’s responsibility to get the adjustment made.

"They have to prove us wrong," Pace said. "They should bring in a fee appraisal that has been done recently."


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