In the Classroom

Opposition growing to property tax sharing bill

Tammy de Weerd.
Tammy de Weerd.

A plan that surfaced two weeks ago to force cities, counties and other taxing districts to share their property tax revenue with Idaho schools is getting pushback.

The Association of Idaho Cities — and even one school superintendent who could benefit from the idea — say it has problems.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, is behind the bill that would require taxing districts to turn over 50 percent of property tax revenue they get from construction of new buildings in the year they were built as a way for schools to get some financial help in regions of the state that are growing. The money would have to be used for school building safety or to repay school construction bonds.

Tammy de Weerd, Meridian mayor and cities association president, says the Idaho Constitution requires the state to provide an education, not cities. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the way to do it," she said. "It is a tax shift."

Cities need that money to pay for growth before new construction makes its way onto the tax rolls. “When we fund new growth the (demand) for our services starts the minute the shovel is turning dirt,” DeWeerd said. “We have police and fire service that start early on.”

Seth Grigg, association executive director, disagrees with Moyle's characterization of the property tax as "bonus money" that comes to cities after they have already approved their budgets each year. The money is used in determining city budgets and the setting of cities' tax levies, he said.

In 2014, property tax revenue from new construction in Idaho totaled $20 million. Under Moyle’s plan, public schools — including charter schools —would have gotten $10 million to spend on school buildings. For FY 2015, Meridian got $1.6 million in property tax from new construction.

Moyle's idea doesn't put much money into schools, de Weerd said. “Schools cost dollars, and this is just looking at pennies.”

Pat Charlton, Vallivue School District superintendent, says his growing district in Canyon County might get a few dollars out of Moyle's proposal. But it also threatens to hurt a good working relationship he enjoys with cities and the county. He won't push for its passage, Charlton said.

Grigg won't discuss how he plans to oppose Moyle's bill. But for certain, he will face a fight.

The powerful Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry has come out in support of Moyle's bill, calling it one of the best ideas for managing school growth the association has seen in 20 years.

Read the bill here.