Gary Perkins’ 16-year-old blacktop driveway is cracked and split - and worth more than ever.
According to his 1995 property tax assessment, the value of Perkins’ Dalton Gardens home jumped $12,300 - from $84,400 to $96,700. But it’s the $1,248 increase in his driveway that set him off.
“I can appreciate that things appreciate,” Perkins said. “But you know how blacktop is; I’m out here every year filling it in.”
Perkins is one of many angry Kootenai County property owners who are jamming telephone lines at the assessor’s office, seeking an explanation for a rise in their property assessments. Hundreds of people have poured into the courthouse since assessments were mailed last week, Assessor Tom Moore said.
Courthouse operators directed 2,300 telephone calls to the office in five days. Nearly 90 people have picked up applications for the appeal process.
“Everybody wants to know what we did, how we did it and why,” Moore said.
Moore’s office expects that when everything has been added up, property values countywide will have increased this year by $850 million. That’s a 25 percent boost from 1994’s $3.4 billion property tax base - a larger increase than in the three previous years combined.
But that doesn’t mean taxes will rise 25 percent, he said. A new state law caps spending increases among the county’s 44 taxing districts at 3 percent. Taxes may rise - but not in direct proportion to assessments.
“Spending drives taxes - not land values,” Moore said.
Taxing districts, including the county, will decide on budgets in coming months.
As for the valuation, Moore’s explanation is simple: It’s not just that the county is growing, he says; it’s also that more people are selling property and for higher prices.
New construction accounts for only $140 million of the increase in value, down from $186 million last year.
Some property values already were too low. Assessors last year didn’t complete reappraisals near Hayden Lake, so those increases were tacked on to this year’s roll.
New home sale prices rose 9.7 percent in 1994, according to Coeur d’Alene’s multiple-listing service. That drove up the value of neighboring homes. Sales also jumped 5.5 percent last year.
“The biggest chunk is that we adjusted more properties this year than we have in years past - about 48,000 parcels,” said Mike McDowell, Moore’s senior deputy. When sale prices skyrocket, nearby property assessments are adjusted accordingly.
There are about 56,000 parcels of land in the county.
Assessments for most county landowners will jump by an average of more than 10 percent, county officials said. Most Coeur d’Alene homes will jump 15 to 20 percent, while Post Falls homes will jump even higher.
As in most years, county appraisers physically reassessed 20 percent of the county. This year, they focused on booming Post Falls.
The result hit businesses like Badger Building Center hard. The construction materials wholesaling company saw its property assessment jump from $178,000 to $387,000.
“We’re great at cutting costs that we can control; it’s the ones we can’t control that make my mouth dry out and my eyes water,” said owner Mike Badger. “I’m afraid of what this means for people up and down Seltice Way.”
Hayden Lake area homeowners were among the hardest hit. Just ask Jim Kelly, 77.
The value of his 80-foot by 132-foot lot around the Avondale Golf Course jumped from $22,939 last year to $47,400.
“I feel like I’m getting the shaft, here,” Kelly said.
He grew outraged when told that his land value rose because of nearby property sales.
“Somebody else paid an overly high price for their land so we all get it in the nose, huh?” Kelly said. “Well, just because you punch everybody else in the nose that doesn’t make it right to punch me.”