Letters to the editor-12-17-2013

December 17, 2013 

Property taxes

Merry Christmas — here’s your property tax bill.

We had an unwelcome Christmas present when we opened our property tax bill this year — an increase of $925!

Looking back at past years I realized we have now passed some important milestones.

Remember back in the early 2000s when property valuations and taxes were going up so quickly that they called a special session of the legislature in 2006 to help relieve them. This year’s property tax is higher than before they did that. And you’ll remember that property valuations kept going up until we hit the Great Recession, and they topped out in 2008. This year’s property tax is higher than 2008.

Since 2008 my property taxes have gone up 38 percent in total: Ada County up 23 percent, Boise School District up 23 percent, ACHD up 29 percent and the city of Boise up a whopping 53 percent. And that’s with my property valuation going down 7 percent. It’s good to know that while everyone else in the country has been cutting back, our local government seems to be recession-proof.

And they wonder why they can’t pass a new property tax levy.

PATRICK HAAS, Boise

In June 1978, California voters enacted Proposition 13, fixing property taxes at 1 percent of 1975 market value and allowing a 2 percent annual increase. Previously, market values of a residence increased each time a similar house sold for a higher price. As a result, residents living on fixed incomes residing in the same house for decades were forced to sell and move due to unaffordable property taxes.

My 84-year-old sister-in-law has lived in the same Boise house for 50 years. Her 2013 property tax bill is $4,118 — a 13.48 percent increase over 2012.

The assessor’s office claims the increase was due to an increase in the “assessed value” and a decrease in the “homeowner’s exemption.”

The treasurer’s office claims assessed values are determined by a “team of appraisers” in the assessor’s office, who conduct annual market studies of property values.

No explanation for the decrease in homeowner’s exemption and no justification for the increased tax were given.

It appears government calculates what it wants and then manipulates assessed values, homeowner’s exemptions and tax rates to get its desired result.

Idaho voters need to initiate their own tax revolt to keep property taxes affordable, predictable and to eliminate government’s ability to drive you from your property.

QUENTIN SMITH, Boise

A couple of points about property taxes, per a Dec. 10 letter:

1. While the homeowner’s property tax exemption is important, by far the biggest determinants of your property tax bill are the annual budgets set by local taxing districts. If their budgets go up by 10 percent, and your home’s assessed value drops, your tax bill will still mostly likely go up by 10 percent. That’s the way it works in Idaho — our tax rates are set by a ratio between a given budget and the associated total district’s assessed value. If the budget goes up but assessed value drops, the tax bill for that district will still probably go up.

2. It’s really important for property owners to make sure they are letting their local politicians know how they feel about this and to vote. For example, are you letting our Boise mayor and City Council people know your feelings about their spending, which always seems to go up? Did you vote in our last Boise school levy election, whose result caused a double-digit increase in your property taxes? Have you asked your state legislative representatives to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to adequately fund schools?

DAVE CHURCHILL, Boise

I just wrote a check to pay my property tax bill. To my chagrin, 31 percent of my bill is paying for school-related bonds, supplementals, overrides, etc.

Now the city of Boise Parks Department has purchased for $395,000 a piece of property from the Boise School District, at the corner of Franklin and Orchard, to build a city park. The school district should take that money and pay down a bond or other taxpayer debt to help reduce our school taxes. This should be an obligation to help save the taxpayers money.

Does anyone in government even look at things this way?

It would be responsible management, but these days they just continue to spend without any apparent accountability for their actions. Everyone should be outraged if they don’t relieve our tax burden.

PAUL MARTIN, Boise

A.J. Balukoff

Don’t get fooled again, Idaho. We got snookered once before by Walt Minnick, remember? He’s gone now, thank God, replaced by a politician (Raul Labrador) who at least doesn’t misrepresent his ideology to 1st District voters.

Now, a Minnick acolyte comes along, also claiming to be something he’s not. Don’t fall for it again, Idaho. A.J. Balukoff bet on Mitt Romney and backed his presidential campaign. In reality, he’s just a wealthy opportunist running for governor and masquerading as a Democrat.

Don’t reward political deceit again, people. Just say ‘no’ to another FODO (faux Democrat) in Idaho.

WAYNE DE LA MOTTE, South Fork, Boise River

State health care

Idaho or feds in charge of the state health exchange? You be the judge.

Your Health Idaho — you know, the state health exchange — announced that the federal Department of Health and Human Services “extended” Idaho’s deadline for enrollment from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23.

Let me get this straight: The enrollment period for Idahoans is set by the federal government; the health plans Idahoans are allowed to buy is set by the federal government; the minimum benefits and coverage required for health plans are set by the federal government.

Sounds like federal control to me.

STEVE ACKERMAN, Kuna

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