Many Idaho County residents will see their tax bills go up next year as the county struggles to replace funds lost from the Secure Rural Schools Act.
People living in the Grangeville Highway District will have to make up $663,448 of the $1.2 million Idaho County will lose for roads and bridges after Congress failed to renew the act. Although the exact amount of individual property tax increases won’t be known until market values are determined in December, Idaho County Clerk Kathy Ackerman said the hike will be roughly $119 per $100,000 of taxable value.
Idaho County Commission Chairman Skip Brandt said the full impact of the loss of federal funding won’t be known for awhile.
“That’s going to be seen down the road — no pun intended — depending on what kind of winter we get, and we’re just going to have to deal with it as we can,” Brandt said.
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The commissioners unanimously approved a $21.2 million fiscal year budget Tuesday, up from $15.8 million for the current year. Most of the budget increase is from a $4 million reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair 11 county roads that were damaged in the past year from flooding.
The commissioners held a public hearing before adopting the 2018 fiscal year budget, but no members of the public attended and there has been little written comment on the tax increase.
Secure Rural Schools payments help provide stability to mostly rural, forested counties and school districts affected by reduced revenue because of curtailed federal timber receipts. Congress failed to reauthorize the act this year, leaving Idaho County with a deficit of $6.3 million that will be disbursed among the school districts, the county road department and 11 independent highway districts.
Only those residents who are served by the county road and bridge department will be asked for a levy increase. Those residents have not paid taxes for the district since 2008.
The money covers road and bridge maintenance through the county and provides wages and benefits for about 18 employees. The only other source of revenue for the department is highway user fees.
Some of the Secure Rural Schools Act money also helps to pay for fire mitigation, which will be reduced in the coming year. Commissioner Mark Frei said the county also directed some of those funds toward local schools for an outdoor classroom in McCall each year, and that will be cut.
All Idaho County residents will face increases to the solid waste fee as part of the new budget. The residential fee will go up from $13 a year to $30 a year; the commercial rate will rise from $397 a year to $430 a year; and part-time residential and agriculture will increase from $192 to $215 a year.
Commissioner Denis Duman said the fee increase is mostly because of increased tonnage being hauled out of the county to landfills.
“There’s more garbage to haul, and the more you haul the more expensive it gets,” Duman said. “So we’re certainly not raising rates to fatten anybody’s pockets. We’re raising rates to haul off what’s being generated.”