Wednesday, January 19, 2011

URA gobbles up tax dollars

My hat's off to the Express' Trevon Milliard for attempting to educate us taxpayers about the Ketchum Urban Renewal Plan. I agreed to talk with him about my own tax situation because mine is a can of worms—issues go far beyond the URA, but are deeply affected by it.

True, the more than double tax increase did suddenly appear on my 2010 tax bill, but it actually was assessed in 2005—a clerical error by the Assessor's Office failed to notify me at that time. The pie chart provided on our tax bill shows more than 50 percent of my taxes going to URA—that's a pretty huge slice of the pie! "The district gets only the property taxes resulting from property value increases" (retroactive to 2001). (See Friday, Jan 14, issue of the Idaho Mountain Express, Page 1.)

Our legislators passed laws in 2006 limiting property tax increases to 3 percent but did not limit the amount to which our property can be reassessed or how.

Now consider this: It would seem that my property (and my neighbor's) were revalued at the over-the-moon rate of adjacent property developer (and former P&Z chair) Jack Rutherford's now bankrupt East Avenue Bluff Townhomes project, which pays zero taxes until the completion of the whole plan, if ever.

When the URA plan was originally presented, my neighborhood on River Street East was not included, yet mysteriously those of us on the northwest side of the street are included in what is obliquely titled URA's "Revenue Allocation Area."

This was a big surprise to me, since we are a totally residential neighborhood of mostly full-time locals, no commercial use whatsoever. Nearby commercial properties on Leadville Avenue between First and River streets are excluded.

I suggest that every citizen locate their property's location via map to see if you've been cherry-picked to be included. Also, download the 2010 Urban Renewal Plan PDF file, then call City Hall and ask for an English translation. And think about that jump in your taxes!

Mr. Rutherford's unfortunate choice of an advertising slogan for his development "Because You Can," seems to have been adopted by our "city fathers" as their own.

Sue Jacobsen


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