Property tax caps are keeping 42 Idaho cities from providing basic services such as police enforcement and road maintenance.
But the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would allow voters in cities such as Hauser, Dalton Garden and Clark Fork to approve up to a 4 percent increase in their property tax budget.
The 1995 Legislature put an annual 3 percent cap on the amount cities could increase property taxes for their overall budgets.
This move, aimed at preventing sky-rocketing tax increases, paralyzed many cities that were frugally taxing residents. As these towns grow, residents request necessary services that the cities can’t afford.
Rep. Golden Linford, R-Rexburg, said his bill would help these communities, which are concentrated in four Idaho counties - Ada, Blaine, Bonner and Kootenai.
“We’re wondering how we can help that situation and still not put a crack in the dam and not do what we feared and that’s increasing property taxes,” Linford said.
The bill has the potential to cost taxpayers in these 42 cities a total of $11 million, but supporters said only the most strapped towns would approve a tax increase.
Seven Kootenai County cities would be eligible for levy increases: Dalton Gardens, Hauser, Hayden Lake, Hayden, Fernan Lake Village, Athol and Worley. Six Bonner County communities would be eligible: Kootenai, Dover, Oldtown, Hope, East Hope and Clark Fork.
The measure drew heated debate in the House because many lawmakers feared it would crumble current property tax caps.
Most worries were relieved after the House amended the bill to require a super majority vote of 60 percent and to have cities conduct the election on primary- or general-election dates.
“Voters are coming to the city saying we need a policeman or snow removal and are asking the city to increase property taxes,” Linford said.
“They’re going to have to convince their neighbors to remove this imposed cap.”
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