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Time To Assess The Damage Kootenai County Homeowners Brace For Tax Bills, Officials For Appeals

Tue., May 21, 1996

Property values in Kootenai County’s outlying cities rose 27 percent to 37 percent last year, according to Kootenai County assessment figures released Monday.

But while land, home and business values in Rathdrum, Athol, Bayview and Spirit Lake increased dramatically as a whole, it’s too early to tell what that means for most homeowners.

County workers attribute much of the increase to new construction and an abundance of newly created vacant lots.

That means some home and business owners could see significantly smaller increases in their assessments.

“Ours was down for the first time last year,” said Joreen Bowen, an Athol homeowner. “But with all the new homes around, I’m sure we’ll see it high again this year.”

Because the value of property countywide increased about half as much as it did last year, county officials don’t expect to see record-setting appeals like last year.

“A lot was made about those appeals last year, but I doubt we’ll see as many this time,” Assessor Tom Moore said.

More than 62,000 assessment notices were mailed Monday, kicking off an uneasy season for homeowners and county workers. Those notices are used to calculate how much each landowner pays in taxes at year’s end.

Last year, the value of property in the county jumped higher than it had in the previous three years combined.

More than 900 angry homeowners responded by appealing their assessments, fearing rising property values would translate into higher taxes. About 20 percent actually had their property values reduced.

This year, the assessment picture is varied.

Countywide, property value is expected to rise about $430 million compared with $900 million last year. Of that, $134 million is new construction compared with $186 million last year.

At least one area - Cataldo - will see an across-the-board decrease.

The state gave appraisers the authority to revalue the flood-soaked area. The result is that the area’s 351 parcels of land - about 10,000 acres - dropped almost $1 million in value.

Coeur d’Alene homeowners will see land values citywide rise about 1 percent, while Dalton Gardens and Post Falls will rise about 7 percent and 11 percent respectively.

Some of those increases, county officials said, are simply the result of 117 new subdivisions, which added an additional 1,800 lots.

Not technically considered “new construction,” those lands previously would have been assessed as agriculture or timber land, valued at less than $1,000 an acre, said Deputy Assessor Mike McDowell. Now they are building lots, worth $20,000 or more apiece.

“That’s going to account for a lot of your increase,” he said.

Additionally, a state-mandated 12 percent increase on some rural land affected fewer than 20,000 pieces of property. A similar increase last year hit 40,000 parcels of land.

But no one can yet say for sure how that will translate in fast-growing cities like Rathdrum, where new construction accounted for less than a third of a $23 million - or 37 percent - property value increase this year.

“It’s hard to talk in terms of what it means for the average homeowner,” McDowell said.

County officials argue that when the dust settled last year, many homeowners’ property tax bills went down. They hope to continue the trend during this summer’s budget season.

But some property owners, already skeptical, are steeling themselves for the worst.

“I bought my place in August of 1994 for $23,500 and it rose $11,000 in value last year,” said Rathdrum man Don Guinn. “If it goes up again, I’ll be going in to see them about it. And the neighbors will be coming with me.”

, DataTimes

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