Friday, August 5, 2005

Property tax meeting set in Hailey

State Legislature committee will listen to public's concerns


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Legislalture's Interim Property Tax Committee is hosting a hearing next week to give Blaine County citizens an opportunity to voice their concerns about property taxes and rapid increases in property value assessments. The meeting Wednesday, Aug. 10, at 1 p.m. in Room 301 of the Community Campus in Hailey, is an opportunity for taxpayers to make comments and suggest solutions without going to Boise. The committee is touring the state, with the first hearings held in northern Idaho in late July.

"Judging by the number of calls I have received since assessments were sent out in June, I know this is a serious concern," said Marisa Nelson, Blaine County's property taxpayer advocate. "Now is the time for Blaine County residents to have those concerns heard by the people who can actually make a difference."

Previously solutions proposed to the Legislature to be considered by the committee include property tax deferments for senior citizens who are on fixed incomes, relief for residents who have lived in their home for more than 10 years, and increasing the income threshold for the "circuit breaker." The "circuit breaker" is a state-funded program that provides property tax relief for those people over 65 with an income less than $22,040 per year.

"Specific steps towards property tax relief should be enacted," said Sarah Michael, chairwoman of the Blaine County Board of Commissioners.

One proposed solution has local elected officials particularly worried, however. House Bill 279 would delete the value of new construction from the three-percent growth limit for local government budgets.

"In a high-growth county, we need more tools to make growth pay for itself, not fewer," Michael said. "If the Legislature eliminates the new-growth factor, current property tax payers pay twice. They have to pay for the new growth and they also have their quality of life impacted by having their services reduced."

Michael suggests that Idaho follow other states in developing several ways to pay for county services. Two nearby Western states, Utah and Colorado, have enacted local option sales taxes and real estate transfer taxes as alternatives to the property tax to pay for public services.

For those who are unable to attend the hearing written comment for the public record can be mailed to Interim Property Tax Committee staff member Mike Nugent PO box 83720 Boise, Idaho 83720. Nugent can also be reached by telephone at (208) 334-2475 or by email - mnugent@lso.idaho.gov.




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