Friday, May 16, 2014

Local property taxes not too high

    Whenever local taxpayers are asked, as they will be in next Tuesday’s election, whether they will increase property taxes on themselves and their neighbors to repair roads and to fix Hailey’s sewer treatment plant, they wonder if the taxes they are being asked to pay are too high.
    We are living in a time when political fortunes have been made by state and national leaders who tell us that taxes are too high and that we should pay less, not more. Before we take them at their word, we need to examine the facts.
    Blaine County has some of the lowest property taxes in Idaho as a percentage of property values. According to statistics compiled each year by the Idaho State Tax Commission, only four counties have a lower property tax percentage than Blaine’s .798 percent. These include Bear Lake, Custer, Idaho and Lemhi counties.
    Canyon County has the highest rate of 2.02 percent. At 1.688 percent, the rate in Twin Falls County is more than double our local rate.
    Blaine County’s percentage is low, in part, because of high total property values. At $8.3 billion in 2012, Blaine County values ranked third highest in the state, trailing only Ada County at $24.6 billion and Kootenai County at $11.3 billion. Both of those counties have far larger populations.
    It’s tempting to argue that taxes are too high relative to local wages. Even that argument fails because the county’s median household income is $60,160 vs. $47,015 statewide and $53,046 nationally, according to U.S. Census figures for 2012.
    Arguably, Blaine County has one of the highest living standards in the state. That standard depends on good planning, good luck and enlightened voters who don’t let popular rhetoric overshadow the facts.
    Voters can go to the polls next week and be confident that even with a tax hike they will pay lower property taxes than the vast majority of Idahoans.

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