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Bonner values to rise, but not as much

The state Tax Commission, sitting as the Board of Equalization, came up with a compromise plan for Bonner County taxable values today that will mean increases from 2005 levels, but not by as much as an earlier, disputed assessment that jumped values 62 percent countywide.

Tax Commissioner Dewey Hammond crafted the compromise plan, which he said would set the values “at the low end of acceptable.” He added, “My recommendation is to put Bonner County in the middle of all the other counties – not at the front end.” Hammond used a calculation to determine the percentage increases that set a goal of reaching 95 percent, rather than 100 percent, of current market value for each area. That resulted in numbers that still fell within legal requirements for matching market values – while the 100 percent target would have put Bonner County higher than most counties in its ratio of taxable values to actual sale prices.

Bonner County Commissioner Karl Dye welcomed the compromise, which the four tax commissioners approved unanimously. “I appreciate the board’s consideration,” he said. “I think this is a more just value that we can take back to our taxpayers and try to explain what’s going on, and go from there.”

Bonner County commissioners, besieged by tax appeals, had passed a resolution to scrap the 2006 assessment and roll values back to 2005 levels, because of inaccuracies in the 2006 assessment. But state law and the state Constitution require tax assessments to match current market values.

The Tax Commission’s compromise plan applies differing percentage increases to 2005 values for homes in various cities and neighborhoods around the county. For the most part, it calls for increasing residential lot values by close to 100 percent, but increasing values for improvements on the land – homes – by only about 30 to 50 percent. For most homeowners, a large majority of their total taxable value is due to the structure, rather than the land.

Here’s an example: A house in Priest River would see a 30 percent increase in the value of the structure, and a 100 percent increase in land value. If that’s applied to a $120,000 home for which $20,000 of the value is from the lot, after this year’s increased homeowner’s exemption, the owner would see an increase in total taxable value of 36 percent.

Other areas would see differing increases. In Dover, lot values would go up 320 percent, but home values wouldn’t rise at all, and instead would stay at the 2005 level. In some rural subdivisions, home values actually would drop while land values would double, all in an effort to more accurately match market prices.

Tax Commission Chairman Tom Katsilometes said, “We don’t have any heartburn with Bonner County or Bonner County commissioners. Frankly, I think this has been a good exercise, bringing this issue that’s facing Idaho to the forefront. It’s not going to go away.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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