Eagle continues to have one of the lowest city property tax rates in the state, while Boise has moved closer to the maximum property tax levy allowed by state law.
This month, the levies for various taxing districts were officially set and nearly all districts in Ada and Canyon counties increased their rates over last year.
The median assessed value of an Ada County home peaked in 2008 at $208,100. This year, that value is $138,800 a 1.7 decrease from last year and a 33 percent decrease in just four years. In Canyon County, median residential values dropped about 8 percent countywide this year to $76,400, about half of what they were in 2008.
But lower property values do not necessarily translate into lower taxes.
Thats because property tax bills are determined by the levy rates set by individual taxing districts where a home is located. When property values drop, these districts can increase rates to keep the same level of revenue.
There are 41 taxing districts in Ada County, including the county, cities, schools and the highway district as well as smaller emergency medical services, library, cemetery, mosquito abatement and irrigation districts.
Even if a taxing districts budget stays the same, its levy may go up to compensate for the decline in property values, said Gary Houde, senior research analyst with the Idaho Tax Commission.
Another factor affecting a homes tax bill is its taxable value, Houde said. The Idaho homeowner's exemption, an offset based on the federal housing price index, dropped this year. The maximum exemption is $83,974, down from $92,040 last year. It was highest in 2009 at $104,500. That means homeowners are paying taxes on a bigger share of the value of their property.
Houde expects 2012 property tax bills to remain relatively flat, except for owners who reside in areas where property values increased, such as in parts of Meridian, or within school districts where voters recently approved levies, like Kuna School District. Last year, Kunas school levy was $479 per $100,000 of taxable value. Last month, voters approved a two-year $3.19 million supplemental levy, raising the rate in the school district to $786 per $100,000 of taxable value.
In late October, the State Tax Commission will certify all the 2012 levies, and in late November, county treasurers will send out 2012 property tax bills. The first half of property tax payments are due Dec. 20; on June 20, the second half is due.
Idaho law has two mechanisms to keep property taxes and levy rates in check.
Each taxing district can raise its property tax budget by no more than 3 percent annually, plus the value of new construction.
This year, Eagle, Star, Ada County Highway District and Ada County decided to take none of the allowed 3 percent increase and to collect the same amount in property taxes as last year.
The other cities Boise, Garden City, Kuna and Meridian chose to take the full increase.
The second way the state limits increases is by setting a maximum levy rate for counties, cities and other taxing districts.
As property values drop for the fourth consecutive year, some agencies are getting close to maxing out their levy, Houde said. The maximum general fund levy rate for cities is .009.
A lot of varying types of districts are getting close to maximum levy because market values keep falling, Houde said.
Boise, with a .0083 levy, is the closest Ada County city to maxing out. In Canyon County, both Caldwell and Nampa have hit the maximum levy. Canyon County, Nampa and Caldwell could not take any of the 3 percent increase this year because they have capped out.
For counties, the maximum levy for current expenses is .0026. Ada County is nearing that threshold with a .0023 levy.
Five of Ada County's eight fire districts have reached their maximum levy, as have all three library districts.
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell