By Mary Souza, Feb. 02, 2009
Property Tax Relief for Over Half Our State!
Everyone wants a bailout. Every hand is outstretched, begging for government money. But government doesn't earn money, it takes it from us, the taxpayers. Each dollar they give to help some ailing industry has to come from our wallets.
So it is great to see our state working to lower expenses rather than raise our taxes. Our governor has called for serious budget cuts in all departments and lawmakers are looking for new and creative ways to reduce our tax burdens.
Representative Jim Clark (R-Hayden) is doing just that. He's researching legislation to lower our property taxes by capping the amount of money going to urban renewal. Urban renewal agencies currently receive an unrestricted level of tax increment revenue from their districts, which often encompass key portions of cities. Let me repeat: There is currently no limit on the amount of tax increment money that can go to urban renewal.
Tax increment is the property tax that goes to urban renewal agencies from all their districts. These districts often comprise a city's main business sectors, and the tax increment from them goes to the urban renewal agencies, not the cities, counties or others, as would be usual.
Is this tax increment a big deal? You bet. Our state has a total of $3.6 billion (with a "b") in tax increment controlled by urban renewal agencies. This is not just a local problem or limited to only one region of Idaho. Out of the 44 counties in our state, more than half have urban renewal agencies within their borders. Some counties have several. And the amount of tax increment in certain cities and counties is shocking.
Caldwell and Jerome have almost 20% of their city's total tax base in tax increment. Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls and Spirit Lake are each above 12%, Burley has more than 25% and Dover tops the list with over 40% of its assessed value in tax increment.
There are 37 cities across our state with urban renewal agencies. Kootenai tops the list of counties with the highest total increment, with Ada county a close second.
Rep. Jim Clark is to be commended for his innovative and responsible idea. More than half the state's taxpayers will see property tax reductions by lowering the tax increment flowing to urban renewal agencies.
The statistical research backing this effort was obtained from the Idaho State Tax Commission who, surprisingly, said they are rarely asked for this data. Are our county commissioners and mayors even aware of these numbers? Several mayors, when randomly asked, were not; they had no idea. Rep. Clark hopes to include a method for certifying the capped tax increment so the information will be easily available to local leadership.
In this time of business and employment uncertainty, our government should be looking for all reasonable methods to help citizens pull through. President Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address, "It's not my intention to do away with government, it is rather to make it work--work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back." Government and citizens must work together as a team to find the helping hand at the end of our own sleeves. With this proposed limit on tax increment for urban renewal, we can take a serious step forward in that process.
Dear Newsletter Readers,
Here's my Press column from last Friday. They are now running it every other Friday on the front of the Local section. This one shows our government can work for us. Rep. Jim Clark realizes the serious plight of the taxpayers, many of whom are struggling with job cutbacks or loss. Property tax relief is critical right now. And, with all areas of government taking budget cuts, shouldn't urban renewal have some restrictions as well? It's a win-win situation, so please let Rep. Clark know how you feel. You can send him a quick email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or call him at:(208) 332-1000.
Remember, there are strong forces that will oppose any change in the current free-for-all of urban renewal in Idaho. Your voice will make a difference.
Have a great week! --Mary
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Mary Souza has been a concerned citizen
of CdA for over 20 years. She's a local small business owner,
former P&Z Commissioner
and wrote an opinion column in the CdA Press on local issues. Her
opinions are her own.
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