Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Preserve impact fees


Hailey voters need to preserve the city's ability to collect impact fees on new development in the face of a ballot initative that calls for the city to stop imposing them.

Think about it.

When the owner of a car sells it, a buyer or bank pays the owner a lump sum. A new buyer can't take possession of a car by simply starting to make payments. Someone, usually the bank, has to buy into the car's value.

Cities are like cars. Taxpayers essentially own the cities. They shoulder loans and pay them off in order to build water and sewer systems, fire stations, parks, and city halls among other things.

However, all city taxpayers aren't equal, Taxpayers with buildings on their property pay more than those with vacant lots. That's the way property taxes work.

All properties aren't equal either. Vacant lots don't need a lot of city services. They don't consume water or need sewer hookups. They don't "generate" people who need police protection or buildings that need fire protection. So, owners of vacant lots pay fewer taxes than those with developed lots.

That's why, when it comes time to build or expand, the state of Idaho allows cities to levy impact fees on new or expanded buildings and larger developments. The fees are a developer's "buy-in" on the investment in city services already made by other taxpayers with developed properties—services a new development needs.

Without impact fees, some taxpayers unfairly subsidize new development. That's why in November Hailey voters reject the ballot initiative that would end them.




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