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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Dec 31, 2003 - Jan 6, 2004


Blaine County publishes 2003 financial report

Commissioner hopes for
more citizen involvement

"It’s important to have an educated, informed electorate. This information will give them choices, as well as an opportunity for input."

SARAH MICHAEL, Blaine County commissioner

Express Staff Writer

In an effort to better inform county citizens about county finances, the Blaine County Commissioners this week are publishing the county’s first Blaine County Financial Report, a summary of last year’s, $17.5 million fiscal budget.

The report can be found as a four-page insert in this week’s issue of the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper.

According to Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael, who authored the report, the information contained in the document is also featured on the county’s Web site at www.blainecounty.org. Copies are also available at the county courthouse.

The Financial Report is designed to inform Blaine County residents and tax payers about the county’s property taxes, how they are calculated and distributed and how the county finances its budget.

"It has taken me three years as a county commissioner to understand county property taxes and the county’s budget, and I wanted to communicate this information to the public in a meaningful way," Michael said.

The report also illustrates how Blaine County compares to several other taxing jurisdictions in Idaho. In addition, it acquaints residents with county elected officials and staff members and highlights some of their 2003 accomplishments.

"It is also the goal of this financial report to let people know how they can participate in Blaine County’s budget process in July of each year and voice your ideas and comments," Michael said. "It’s important to have an educated, informed electorate. This information will give them choices, as well as an opportunity for input."

The report, which county commissioners informally approved in mid-December, includes the following information:

Property taxes in Blaine County depend on location. Residents who live in county land north of Ketchum pay property taxes at the lowest rate.

Blaine County has the lowest tax rate in Idaho. The primary reason is because Blaine County has the second-highest assessed property values in the state.

Property values have increased an average of 15 percent to 18 percent in 2003 in Blaine County and have been even higher in some previous years.

Blaine County is responsible for billing and collecting all property taxes, but only 12 percent of any given property tax dollar is for county operations. Approximately 61 percent of each property tax dollar goes to the Blaine County School District. Another 23 percent goes to the county’s cities, and 2 percent goes to the Blaine County Recreation District. Approximately 2 percent goes to fund ambulance services, and a very small percentage goes to flood and cemetery districts.

By area, Blaine County is one of the largest counties in Idaho, with almost 1.7 million acres of land. Only 18 percent, or 312,559 acres, of the county is privately owned. The federal and state governments own the remainder.

In the 1990s, the county’s population grew by 40 percent, and the county is now averaging a growth rate of 3.65 percent a year, for an estimated current population of approximately 21,000.

Idaho law limits to 3 percent the amount that local government can annually increase property taxes.

"Our biggest challenge is to provide essential services to a rapidly growing population within this parameter," Michael said.

Blaine County’s fiscal 2003 budget was $17,455,383. Of that amount, $5,556,144, or 32 percent, of the budget was funded from county property taxes.



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